Racism In The Healthcare System

By Cassie Kim
Addressing the racism that faces the African American community is integral to creating positive change, especially since the racism and bias are ingrained in every aspect of our society. It’s difficult to trace the start of the cycle of racism and discrimination; change needs to happen to our entire society in order for it to be effective.Trapped in a fundamentally racist system with income inequality, African Americans are more likely to live in high poverty areas; typically food deserts with less clean air, land, and space. They are also more likely to work in jobs that are more hazardous for unlivable wages. These situational hazards have a direct impact on the health and quality of life for the people who experience these living conditions. People stuck in this cycle are also less likely to have insurance coverage that would provide them with access to all-important healthcare. Despite the disadvantages that many African Americans face from the beginning, African Americans also face implicit bias when they get medical care, causing “African Americans (to) have worse health outcomes than whites in nearly every illness category” according to The Century Foundation. 

Implicit bias, the internalized bias that people have against a group, has no room in the healthcare system. When doctors and nurses avoid addressing the implicit bias they likely have, the quality of healthcare they provide declines. Refusing medications, improper diagnosis, and lower quality of care all result from implicit bias that doctors and medical professionals may have. Deaths from a lack of preventative care, early intervention, and disease management, much higher for African Americans, stems from the implicit bias of the people treating them. According to The Century Foundation, “a black woman is 243% more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than a white woman.” It is unacceptable for the quality of care to be lower for some people than for others. Things are not going to change until we take the time to have discussions within our society; implicit bias has no place in our healthcare system or in our country. 

The healthcare system is failing minorities, especially African Americans. It is just one symptom of the racism woven so deeply into our society. Both the social factors and the implicit bias in the healthcare system are preventing the African American community from receiving quality healthcare; this needs to change. Especially now, with coronavirus disproportionately affecting the African Americans, we need to engage in conversation to improve not just the healthcare system, but how our entire society treats African Americans.