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Racial Bias in Healthcare: How It Affects the Healthcare Services

 
Though there are many progress in dealing with racial bias, there are still industries that have this kind of bias in their field / Photo by: Getty Images

 

“People fail to get along because they fear each other, they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” Martin Luther King Jr. said, a known figure who fought against racial discrimination and was a known advocate of equality among black Americans during the 1960s. He always believed that equality could happen if there would be a voice that is brave enough to speak out against their oppressors.

Today, even though there had been a progress on racial equality and more people have been open-minded about the true nature of having different races and culture, there still implicit racial biases that are happening in different industries, especially in the healthcare industry. Harvard Health Publishing mentioned on their website that there had been cases that a black woman failed to received medical attention because she was black. This proved that racial bias, even though not obvious enough, is still happening and sometimes people are not aware that they are doing it to other people. Moreover, patients with different race are not just the only one who experience discrimination and equality in the healthcare industry.

U.S News Health reported on their website that a research led by Dr. Aba Osseo-Asare, from Yale University, aimed to investigate how race and ethnicity affected the training experience of medical residents. The researchers used 24 minority residents in the different field of specialties who attended a medical conference in 2017, and the study stated that bias is a real thing among the medical practitioners and it is a daily struggle for them. Several medical journals have been published as guidelines for doctors with titles like “Dealing with Racist Patients” and “The Discriminatory Patient and Family: Strategies to Address Discrimination Towards Trainees”, which could be helpful for medical practitioners who experience discriminations, insults, and attacks from their own patients just because of their implicit racial bias.

Racial difference among medical practitioners

In The University of Virginia findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, white medical students and residents were asked to see how many believed inaccurate and at times “fantastical” differences are there between the two races. In the website Black Doctor, they explained that half of the people they have surveyed believed at least one of the “fantastical” statements is “possibly, probably, or definitely true.” The researchers noted that the significance of the study is to examine the beliefs that are associated with racial bias in pain management, a critical healthcare domain with well-documented racial disparities. This research shows that most white laypeople and medical students and residents hold false beliefs about the biological facts between the different races and this could result to racial bias when it comes to pain perception and treatment that needed accuracy.

One of the industries that racial bias is still rampant despite its programs to fight it is the healthcare industry / Photo by: Getty Images

 

Effects of racial bias

A study published by the American Public Health Association mentioned that most health care providers appear to have a more positive attitude towards white people and tend to have a negative attitude towards people of color. Negative implicit attitudes about people of color may contribute to racial/ethnic disparities in health and healthcare. The study focused on reviewing pieces of evidence on implicit racial/ethnic bias among health care professionals and on the relationships between healthcare professionals’ implicit attitudes about racial/ethnic groups and healthcare outcomes.

In a website called The Commonwealth Fund, they shared that in 2003, a group of Greensboro community organizers invited researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health to form the Greensboro Health Disparities Collaborative, an effort to address and make more people understand the lingering effects of segregation. During the group’s first activity, many people came out and shared that they had experienced discrimination in a healthcare setting. “This was an important piece of collaborative,” says Christina Yongue, M.P.H., coordinator of the Greensboro Cancer Care and Racial Equity study. She also added that they made sure that the community will have full participation in every step of the research process.

Moreover, the National Academy of Medicine stated that racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than white people-- even in terms of insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable. National Academy of Medicine explained that lower-quality health care means that people of color receive inferior care than white people. In light of these studies, some scholars have concluded that racial disparities in health can be explained by looking to the individuals who are choosing not to prescribe the most effective, health and life conserving treatments to racial minorities. The physician’s racial biases could cause their patients of color to become sicker and die at a younger age than white people. Dayna Bowen Matthew noted on her book called, “Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Healthcare” that few physicians, like the general public, admit to harboring negative attitudes about any particular racial group.

The result of the bias was both positive and negative on two sides of the society and of the industry / Photo by: Getty Images

 

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