When we’re at the doctor, we’re in one of our most vulnerable positions, aren’t we? We’ve come to see a person who has had years of schooling. They’re going to influence life-altering decisions. If they don’t give proper care, whether completely accidental or through gross negligence, we could die.
So why do we have such gross inequities in care standards among ethnic groups in the United States?
COVID and the Disproportionate Effect on Minorities
The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted disparities between the different ethnic groups that have existed for as long as we can remember. The difference with COVID-19 is that the timeframe with which we’ve had to gather data is relatively short when compared with some of the other issues I’ll be highlighting today.
For every 100,000 Black Americans who get COVID-19, 62 of them die. For Indigenous peoples, the number is 36. For white, Asian, and Latinx people the numbers are 26-28. Additionally, for every 10 white Americans that have been hospitalized, 27 Black Americans are also hospitalized.
Social determinants play a role in the fact that people of color are more likely to have serious health outcomes or die from COVID-19. In addition to the income gap, people of color are more likely to have lower-income service jobs. These types of jobs can be difficult to take time off from, and they also increase the employees’ chance for exposure.
Access to care can be limited for anyone in a lower-income job, and people of color are more likely to fit in the category than white Americans. When you don’t have ready access to care, you’re more likely to develop chronic conditions that increase your chances of not just getting COVID-19, but also dying from it.
Lack of care means you don’t have access to doctors who can pre-screen you for the chronic conditions you develop later.
Maternal Care Inequity
Based on a large data sample gathered from 2007 to 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that maternal mortality disparities among ethnic groups are awful in the U.S. For every 100,000 births, the number of deaths is as follows:
- White- 12.7
- Asian/Pacific Islander – 13.5
- Hispanic – 11.5
- American Indian/Alaskan Native – 29.7
- Black – 40.8
The disparities don’t end with pregnancy. In America, Black infants have the highest mortality of any ethnic group in the country. Much of this is attributed to poor access to care and not being given the same treatment as white mothers.
Whether we’re looking at mothers or their babies, the real tragedy is that many of them die from preventable or treatable abnormalities and illnesses. If they received equitable care, many of these deaths wouldn’t happen.
Racist Medical Standards: Broad Strokes for a Diverse Group
Yes, you can learn things on TikTok. And the racist standards for measuring kidney function is something that I learned about. Did you know that a Black correction factor is applied to the most widely used kidney function test, the eGFR?
Scientists decided that Black people had more muscle mass and therefore higher functioning kidneys. So once a Black person takes this test, additional points are added to their score. This can result in delayed care and a longer time on the kidney transplant list. What this means is that medical decisions are being made about Black people as if this single brush stroke can be applied to this diverse group.
What about people like me, who have one white parent and one Black parent? Am I white enough to avoid those extra points should push come to shove? The answer is almost definitely no. I’ve never been white enough for anything in my entire life.
Sign up today for the Culturally Competent Conversations on Equity and Belongingness (C3EB) Summit and learn more about health and wellness inequities and what we’re doing about it. More importantly, learn what you can do about them.