For far too long, racism has made the world unequal and unsafe. We recognize the pain and suffering racism has caused and are making a commitment to be part of the solution. We stand with the Black community, as well as with all people of color — and it is our responsibility to do more. We are here to support our community, through learning and sharing resources on how to become a better healthcare ally.
Please leverage this article to understand how system racial bias exists within healthcare, and find ways that wellness professionals can take actionable steps towards instituting change. You’ll find a list of resources and readings at the end of this article so that you can better recognize unconscious provider bias, develop cultural competencies, and self-educate on ways to communicate effectively with patients of a different race.
Our team at Healthie would like to reaffirm our commitment, today and always. We not only stand in solidarity together with other community members, but will also continue to take action against systemic racism as well as steps in favor of closing the gap that persists as a consequence, especially in our domain of health and wellness.
We are committed to working together hand-in-hand with our minority members, partners, internal teammates, owners and investors, and broader community in every facet of what we do.
We will continue working with WIC programs and nonprofits that support underserved communities, and our providers who make a difference every single day in creating a society with access to healthcare and education, which directly impacts outcomes.
Understanding Structural Racism within Healthcare
As a company dedicated to providing software solutions for healthcare workers, we cannot overlook the hardships people of color face within healthcare — both in receiving quality healthcare and in the prevalence of illness. According to the CDC, the effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups are still emerging; however, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.
Within the healthcare system, racial disparities are still a prevalent issue that many people of color face when receiving care. The National Institute of Medicine not only acknowledges the existence of healthcare disparities but even recognizes these healthcare disparities as facilitators in structural racism — acknowledging the links between racism and poor health are critical to closing the health equity gap.
Black people are disproportionately affected by chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke — with a significantly higher prevalence of death at a younger age when compared to Caucasians. A study published in the Lancet exploring equity and equality in health in the USA proposes that while “race is essentially an ideological construction, race is not the basis upon which differential health outcomes can be explained.” Race, however, remains a significant predictor of health outcomes.
Removing skin color and race as the scientific cause of chronic illness, the researchers of the same Lancet study propose that inequalities within healthcare occur as a combination of an inequality in the distribution and access to resources, which exists within an “inherently racist system.” Healthcare providers get an average of just 47 minutes of racial and cultural sensitivity training during their careers — and as high as 68% of healthcare workers report receiving absolutely no training. The lack of sensitivity training is evident once providers are in practice: 47% of the population felt that people of color are treated unfairly due to the color of their skin.
A systematic review that was published in American Emergency Medicine found that the majority of studies (which consisted of assessing healthcare providers using the Implicit Association Test) found a preference for white patients over all others. Two of those studies went further and found a correlation between this bias and how providers make clinical decisions for their patients. Another study, regarding the cooperativeness of the patients, found that providers rated white patients more cooperative, even when the conditions were exactly the same.
This systemic racial bias within healthcare leads to people of color tending to trust their healthcare providers less than white patients — without a foundation of trust between healthcare providers and patients, patients are less likely to follow prescribed health recommendations. In turn, this begins to explain some of the disproportions in health outcomes seen between ethnic minorities and Caucasians.
While these studies help to shine a light on the disparities inpatient care, people of color also face inequality in accessing healthcare. People of color are consistently shown to have lower levels of healthcare coverage from their insurance companies — generally having insurance coverage from public entities, while more Caucasians have coverage from a private employer. In addition, BIPOC are less likely to have access to consistent healthcare and often live in geographical locations where access to high-quality healthcare is lacking.
Racial Inequalities Among Healthcare Professionals
Not only do patients face disparities when receiving healthcare; there is a lack of people of color representing healthcare practitioners delivering care. In 2018, the American Association of Medical Colleges reported that only 5.0% (45,534) of active physicians are Black, versus the majority 56.2% (516,304) who are White practitioners.
The Commission on Dietetic Registration reports that only 2.6% of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are Black while 81.1% are caucasian. BIPOC consists of 7.8% of enrollment in undergraduate DPD programs, while only 4.8% are enrolled in the dietetic internship program and other programs that would make them eligible to take the exam to become credentialed. These numbers remain low twenty years after the development of an affirmative action plan by the Academy.
Properly educating medical and public health students across all fields on cultural competencies can help to dismantle racism within both our education and healthcare systems. Mentorship is also a large factor in helping young professionals develop the confidence to pursue careers in the healthcare industry.
Resources on Health and Race for Wellness Professionals
While bringing awareness to the racial inequalities that exist within healthcare is necessary, it is equally essential to have tangible solutions in order to facilitate change. Find our list of health and race resources below, from books to blogs and podcasts, as well as organizations that support equality and diversity within the healthcare system.
We will continue to update this list over time. If you have a resource on health and race that you would like to recommend to our community, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Get involved with Black Women’s Health Imperative
The Black Women’s Health Imperative’s (BWHI) mission is to lead the effort to solve the most pressing health issues that affect Black women and girls in the U.S. Through investments in evidence-based strategies, they deliver bold new programs and advocate health-promoting policies. Learn how you can get active with BWHI today, from social media efforts to fundraising, or becoming a partner. Get involved with BWHI.
2. Sign the MNT Act of 2020
The Medical Nutrition Therapy Act of 2020 allows Medicare beneficiaries, a large percentage of whom are people of color, expanded access to Medicare Part B coverage for medical nutrition therapy. This act will ensure that lower-income individuals can receive nutritional care they need, both for disease prevention and disease management. Sign the Act.
3. Become a NOBIDAN friend
The National Organization of Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition (NOBIDAN) mission is to provide a forum for professional development and support of dietetic, optimal nutrition, and well-being for the general public, particularly those of African descent. The NOBIDAN mentorship program provides a way to solidify mentor/mentee relationships and establish new ones to support the new cadre of inspired, young Black dietitians and nutrition professionals. Support NOBIDAN.
4. Support Diversify Dietetics
Diversify Dietetics is a community for students, professionals, and educators dedicated to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in the nutrition and dietetics profession. By providing mentorship, career support, and resources for dietetic students, Diversify Dietetics is working to empower more people of color to join the healthcare community as nutrition professionals. Consider joining the organization, or donating to its cause. Support Diversify Dietetics.
5. Listen to Podcast “1619: Episode 4”
In this NY Times podcast series, Episode 4: “How the Bad Blood Started,” focuses on where health disparities within the emancipated Black population began, and how they developed the nation’s first federal healthcare program. Listen to the podcast.
6. Read “Black Man in a White Coat”
In this memoir, Black physician Damon Tweedy reflects on race and medicine, and the enduring racial divide in contemporary American medicine. Read the book.
7. Join a Workshop with the Cross Cultural Health Care Program
The Cross Cultural Health Care Program’s (CCHCP) mission is to serve as a bridge between communities and health care institutions to advance access to quality health care that is culturally and linguistically appropriate. Offering online and in-person programs and workshops, the CCHCP helps healthcare providers join modern cultural competency discussions. Join a CCHP discussion.
8. Read “Racism, Inequality, and Healthcare for African Americans”
Written by Jamila Taylor, a renowned women’s health expert and director of healthcare reform at TCF, Taylor discusses the systemic inequalities that exist within healthcare, as well as steps that can be taken for healthcare reform. Read the article.
9. Watch “The Problem with Race Based Medicine”
In this TEDTalk Social justice advocate and law scholar, Dorothy Roberts lays out the lingering traces of race-based medicine — and invites listeners to be a part of ending it. “It is more urgent than ever to finally abandon this backward legacy,” she says, “and to affirm our common humanity by ending the social inequalities that truly divide us.” Watch the video.
10. Read “Just Medicine”
Health disparities have remained stubbornly entrenched in the American health care system―and in Just Medicine, Dayna Bowen Matthew finds that they principally arise from unconscious racial and ethnic biases held by physicians, institutional providers, and their patients. Read the book.
11. Read “Black and Blue: the Consequences and Origins of Medical Racism”
In this book, author John Hoberman examines the intersection between race and health — exploring how American doctors think about racial differences and how this kind of thinking affects the treatment of their black patients. Read the book.
12. Download the “Black Wellness” handout
In this guide, nutritionist Cassie Brown of Candid Health shares important statistics and trends that impact black Americans. Use this educational handout as a stepping stone to understanding the health challenges facing blacks, and practical steps forward through nutrition. Get the guide.
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