The United States Health Care System is plagued with professional bias and systemic racism that go all the way back to the days of slavery, according to experts and medical students hoping to make big changes to today’s curriculum. These inequities add up to disparate and sometimes tragic outcomes for Black and minority patients – and are completely preventable.
What is health equity?
The term “health equity” is widely used in medical circles, and defines a basic ethics and human rights principle around medical care. A report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) describes it this way:
Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.
Put simply, health equity is the absence of health disparity.
Systemic racism in health care
A recent article in the Washington Post highlighted the issue of health disparities and systemic racism, and how it affects people of color. Medical school faculty and student activists are speaking out and seeking changes to long-standing curricula, asking to eliminate the outdated use of race as a diagnostic tool. Because the medical community has taken race into account for decades when making diagnoses, this will require a massive shift in thought and education.
One organization making an effort to get this shift underway is White Coats for Black Lives, whose mission is to “dismantle racism in medicine and promote the health, well-being, and self-determination of people of color,” as well as three specific goals:
- Foster dialogue on racism as a public health concern
- End racial discrimination in medical care
- Prepare future physicians to be advocates for racial justice
We need look no further than 2020’s coronavirus pandemic to see health care racial bias in action. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Black Americans have contracted and died from COVID-19 at higher rates than whites. They list the following social inequities that put this group at risk:
- Racial discrimination
- Lack of access to proper healthcare
- Occupation that puts them at risk
- Educational, income, and wealth gaps
- Housing (living in crowded conditions)
Read more at the COVID Racial Data Tracker project.
According to the Washington Post, about 80% of medical schools offer a mandatory or elective course on disparities in health care. However, according to some students and doctors interviewed, one or two classes is not enough to dismantle an entire system.
Rachel Hardeman, a health policy professor at the University of Minnesota, explained, “It’s thinking about how do you infuse this across all of the learning in medical education, so that it’s not this sort of drop in the bucket, like, one-time thing.” She added that the courses that delve into systemic racism should be required learning.
If racial bias led to negligence or malpractice in your medical care, you have the right to compensation for your losses. The injury attorneys at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC can help. To schedule your free consultation with one of our South Carolina medical malpractice attorneys, call 803-327-7800, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.
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