Discrimination in the healthcare system

By: Lauren Kottke & Ella Sutherland

Discrimination against minorities in healthcare is a very real and serious issue. This affects the health and well-being of millions of people. Many studies have shown that when it comes to health care racial minorities are much more likely to be treated worse than a white patient in the same hospital with the same health issue. This can lead to worse health for that person or even sometimes preventable deaths. This discrimination can be seen through bias toward white patients, prejudice, and even straight up verbal and non-verbal discrimination.

Healthcare workers might not know they are not offering the same care to all of their patients, through implicit bias. Implicit bias is to subconsciously associate groups of people with a negative evaluation. They might not know they are doing it, but they are making assumptions about minorities which then affects how they treat them.

Studies have shown that health care providers are more likely to give pain relief to white patients, than black patients. This is rooted in the racist stereotype that black people have a higher pain tolerance. The stereotype started when slavery existed and there was unethical medical testing on slaves. It is now known that the stereotypes of black people having thicker skin or less sensitive nerve endings is not true. But it still affects how they are treated in the healthcare system.

Another issue with minorities and healthcare is the costs of medical care. With healthcare prices going up quite a lot, people are finding it hard to afford the healthcare they need. This especially affects minorities showing that their salary is less than a white man’s salary. For every 1 dollar a White man makes, Black women make $0.64, Multiracial Black women make $0.63, Multiracial Asian women make $0.98, Hispanic women make $0.57, and finally, White, non-Hispanic women make $0.79 (wage gap information taken from the U.S. Census Bureau).

Because of these pay gaps it makes it even harder for women of color to afford the healthcare that is required for them to be healthy. This is a problem that can lead many to push off healthcare until deemed absolutely necessary, which is when that sickness or injury is much much worse. This also leads to families being put in hard financial troubles as well as debt.

So, how can we fix this? We first have to accept that there is racism to this day in the healthcare system. Many people would rather say that there is no racism in the healthcare system, than just face the issue. After we accept that there still is racism, we can then look and call it out. Look at how you are being treated at the doctors, compared to your other peers. And if you see discrimination, call it out. Talk to the health care providers about what you saw and ask for change.

We can also start educating medical students about racism in the healthcare system and implicit bias. It should be a mandatory class that all students have to take. This issue isn’t talked about and needs to be if we want change. The students in medical school are our future doctors, so we want to stop the implicit biases before they start caring for patients.

Another solution to the discrimination is standardizing the procedures in healthcare. It is very common that people will have the same procedures done. So by standardizing them, all patients would receive the same level of care.

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