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#DisabledWhileBlack: Three Paths from Racial Bias to Poorer Health

Large disparities exist between the health of Black and white Americans. Is it because black people are uneducated, poor, or lazy? Is it because black people eat too much fast food, smoke too much weed, and drink too much? Don’t be obtuse.

The health gap between Black and White Americans persists BECAUSE OF racism. Racism is a system that engulfs all sectors in America, including healthcare. For example, mortality rates for Black people are 20% higher than White people (1). Black people are more likely to report chronic illness, and black children are more likely than white children to have a disability (2,3). Even socioeconomic status does not account for racial health disparities (4). Rich? Doesn’t matter babe, you black. Same shit.

Three paths can lead from racial bias to poor health outcomes for Black Americans. First, being the target of PERSISTENT discrimination takes both a physical and a psychological toll (5). Second, physicians’ perceptions about race create subpar treatments (5). Third, physicians’ implicit bias leads to poor communication and provider-patient interactions (5). And no, being colorblind or “ignoring race” does not fix this problem.

If you call a problem by it’s name, then MAYBE just maybe you can actually work towards solving it. We can't fix what we don't acknowledge. Physicians, providers, and healthcare facilities need to first acknowledge racial disparities in health care, and then work to address it. One step providers can take is to individuate patients, by treating each patient as a unique individual rather than a representative of a race (5). Hard sell apparently. Clinics and facilities can work to aggregate information and audit that data for racial disparities (5). Then use that data to fix it.

TLDR: Healthcare is racist. Might not be capital R racism in all cases, but bias be fucking us up. Do better.

  1. National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2012: With special feature on emergency care. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2012

  2. Black-white Disparity in Disability: The Role of Medical Conditions

  3. Disparities in the Prevalence of Disability Between Black and White Children

  4. Race, socioeconomic status, and health: complexities, ongoing challenges, and research opportunities.

  5. Reducing Racial Health Care Disparities: A Social Psychological Analysis


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