Denied care, part 2: Racism in today’s health care and how to fight back

Denied care, part 2: Racism in today’s health care and how to fight back

This is part two of a two-part series on racism in health care. Read part one here.

The first article in this series highlighted the long history that deep-rooted racism has had in shaping our nation’s health care policies, including why we were never able to obtain universal health care, unlike every other industrialized nation. Our government’s refusal to recognize health care as a fundamental right can be traced back to disturbing racist beliefs, evident in historical attempts to justify denying health care coverage to Black Americans. 

In fact, a book commissioned by Prudential Life Insurance, written by a white supremacist in 1896, played a significant role in perpetuating racial biases and influencing legislative efforts against universal health care for over a century. It was no coincidence that the Supreme Court ruled segregation should be legal the same year the book came out. The book, “Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro,” argued that health care should be denied to Black Americans since they were prone to disease and would likely die off within three generations if they were simply denied access to health care. The statistics in the book only used race as a factor, ignoring other major issues such as poverty and social neglect. 

The issue is that even today, systemic racism continues to stand in the way of equitable health care access, and despite efforts for improvement, racism stands as a primary driver of health inequities, health disparities, and disease. In 2016, a disturbing study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that many medical students still wrongly believed that Black patients had a higher pain tolerance than nonwhite patients. This myth stemmed from a 19th-century slave owner, Dr. Thomas Hamilton, who convinced the medical establishment that Black skin is “thicker,” made up of fewer nerve endings and hence less sensitive. 

The health disparity issue between whites and people of color is massive due to centuries of misinformation and prejudice, but there are solutions.

RELATED STORY: When it comes to our democracy, the message matters

Powered by WPeMatico

Comments are closed.