Addressing the role of racial inequality in healthcare, the New England Journal Of Medicine published a series of papers on the death of George Floyd and the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on Black and other minority communities in America.
Racial Inequality In Healthcare: Key Facts
In a piece titled “Creating Real Change At Medical Centers — How Social Movements Can Be Timely Catalysts,” doctors at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Medicine describe how the institution conducted a study that found inequalities in access to cardiac care, with white patients typically having better access to specialized care compared to other racial groups.
Another article, titled “Stolen Breaths,” discusses the simultaneous health impacts to black Americans of the coronavirus pandemic and racial inequality.
All of the articles noted that black communities have been disproportionately affected by both the pandemic and by police violence.
The medical community has a history of experimenting on black people without their consent or knowledge, which has sowed a long-lasting distrust between this community and medical professionals.
“Stolen Breaths” suggests five practices to address racial inequality in healthcare such as improving racial diversity among medical professionals and changing business practices that lead to gaps in the accessibility of care among different racial groups.
“In Minnesota, where black Americans account for 6% of the population but 14% of Covid-19 cases and 33% of Covid-19 deaths, George Floyd died at the hands of police,” write physicians Rachel Hardeman, Eduardo Medina and Rhea Boyd.
“Physicians must engage with social movements if we expect to contribute meaningfully to improving health by addressing its social and structural determinants. We should proceed with caution, however, since our profession hasn’t always been supportive of social movements, as illustrated by the history of the American Medical Association and the civil rights movement,” write physicians Michelle Morse and Joseph Loscalzo.
The medical community has a long history of condoning racism and doing experiments on black communities. One of the most infamous experiments was the Tuskegee syphilis study, in which doctors withheld a known treatment for syphilis from black men in order to study the progression of the disease.
Racial inequality in healthcare also has concrete consequences for people’s health
Studies have found that experiencing racial discrimination can lead to faster aging, worse vascular function and other real biological consequences.
Redlining, the now-illegal practice of refusing to sell homes to non-whites in certain geographic areas, remains a reliable predictor of adverse health outcomes.
Authors Michele Evans, Lisa Rosenbaum, Debra Malina, Stephen Morrissey and Eric Rubin write in an article titled “Diagnosing and Treating Systemic Racism” that this current public health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic may be an opportunity to reimagine our current healthcare system and finally tackle the problem of systemic racism.