Racism is a Public-Health Issue
The murder of George Floyd and countless Black lives created a ripple effect of anger and action across the U.S., while also illuminating the systemic racism that is ingrained in every facet of society, including healthcare.
A Commonwealth Fund blog poignantly shared that 15 years ago the Institute of Medicine published an Unequal Treatment report which highlighted that “U.S. racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to receive preventative medical treatments than Whites and often receive lower-quality care.” Since the publishing of that paper and the Institute of Medicine prompting “equity to a list of aims for the U.S. healthcare system,” little progress has been made.
As shared in a recent announcement by the American Medical Association, and further validated by COVID-19, Black people have “long-standing inequities, including historical structural inequities such as neighborhood disinvestment, which has led to less healthy and affordable housing, as well as barriers to consistent transportation, health care access, and employment opportunities—contributing to chronic stress and ‘weathering’ that have made Black communities more vulnerable to illness.” This is also paired with racism within healthcare institutions – doctors reportedly spend less time with Black patients, and are more likely to ignore their symptoms and/or dismiss their complaints.
It’s our goal to educate and highlight how systemic racism negatively impacts the health of Black communities. While the below is just a snapshot of a long list of problems, it does highlight a need for more awareness and action to improve outcomes.
- Of the novel coronavirus cases in the U.S. in which a person’s race was identified, 30 percent of those people were Black (CDC)
- In New York, Black New Yorkers are dying at twice the rate of their White peers. In Louisiana, which experienced a rapid spike in cases, Black people make up 32 percent of the state’s population, but almost 60 percent of COVID fatalities (Vox)
- Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women – and this disparity increases with age (CDC)
- From 2011-2016, there were 42.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for black non-Hispanic women (CDC)
- Black Americans ages 18-49 are 2 times as likely to die from heart disease than White Americans (CDC)
- Black Americans ages 35-64 years are 50% more likely to have high blood pressure than White Americans (CDC)
- Black Americans are 10% more likely to experience serious psychological distress (HHS)
- In 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black Americans, ages 15 to 24. The death rate from suicide for Black men was more than four times greater than for Black women, in 2017 (HHS)
For those in the healthcare space, whether you are a communicator or a care worker, it’s crucial that we all play a role and check ourselves. Personally, I’m going to make sure that the narratives that I share for my clients are inclusive of Black communities and the issues they face.
For those that are not in the healthcare space, but are looking to educate oneself on this topic, check out the following resources.
- Atlantic: How Racism Kills Black Americans
- Vox: How medical bias against black people is shaping Covid-19 treatment and care
- MedPage Today: How Structural Racism Affects Healthcare
- New York Times: Race and Medicine: The Harm that Comes from Mistrust
Looking to support the access to care? You can donate to the below organizations.
- Planned Parenthood
- The Loveland Foundation
- NAACP (Highwire made a donation to this organization)
- Prevention Institute
But, the most important action is to register to vote and make your voice and the voice of others heard.