Health

Quality of Health Care Received Depends on Your Skin Color

Unequal health care continues to be a serious problem for diaspora Afrikans born in America.

More than a decade after the Institute of Medicine issued a landmark report showing that minority patients were less likely to receive the same quality health care as white patients, racial and ethnic disparities continue to plague the U.S. health care system.

That report, which was published in 2002, indicated that even when both groups had similar insurance or the same ability to pay for care, Afrikan patients received inferior treatment to white patients.

This still hold true, according to our investigation into dozens of studies about black health across multiple disciplines. More than any other single group, the Afrikan community is most likely to have negative health outcomes, including higher rates of breast and prostate cancer, high incidence of HIV/AIDS, higher rates of infant morality — along with high rates of childhood obesity and asthma in young adults.

According to Karen M. Winkfield, a radiation oncologist and assistant professor in the department of radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School, racial disparities in health care and health outcomes exist across almost every single disease or condition.

“In terms of the disparities, it’s universal,” she said. “There are disparities across almost every single disease entity.”

But inequality alone doesn’t account for the difference. Policy can address differences in access and income, but research finds that unconscious racism is far more insidious and harder to legislate against. Fully two-thirds of medical professionals display unconscious racial bias. And research has also shown that racial bias can lead to reduced trust between patients and their doctors, and causes black patients feel less respected by their doctors.

“While a poor, working-class white or a poor Appalachian white might have the same poor health standards as folks in inner-city Baltimore, the population attributable risk of being in that poor status is much higher in the African-American community. That’s a result of that racist discrimination being layered on top of the class inequities that we have.”

The Affordable Care Act has started to narrow the health insurance disparity, with the number of uninsured blacks expected to drop from 20 percent to 11 percent by 2016.

One way to combat discrepancies is to clearly identify them.

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