The B’More Human Series continues in November
There is little more important than our health. Yet, like many aspects of our lives, race impacts where one lives, economic resources, education opportunities, environmental issues, and definitely health. Disparities in health outcomes have been observed through the centuries, but are heightened in the more than a century since the end of slavery, considering the great advancements in health sciences. In spite of those advancements, not all people have benefitted from them equally. The gap between health outcomes for white and non-white people persists.
Various federal laws have improved access, like the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which requires health facilities that receive federal funding to provide emergent care to everyone in spite of their ability to pay and race. Yes. It literally took an act of Congress for this to happen, however health disparities persist.
The 2002 Institute of Medicine’s Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, details the evidence of systemic and professional biases in care delivery that discourage some groups to seek care and how different (and less quality) care results in poorer outcomes. Historically, experiences such as the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, which intentionally did not treat black men with syphilis to study the effects of the infection, leave black people untrusting of health systems that would allow such actions, and the health professionals who often do not come from their communities—they do not ‘look like them,’ understand their world view or lived experiences, and, leave uncertainty in communication, intention and trust. Read more about Tuskegee in How the Bad Blood Started, by Yaa Gyasi with a transcript, here.
After slavery, during reconstruction and through decades of separate and not equal, health care was not considered a right, and Blacks felt to be undeserving, creating a type of ‘medical apartheid’. For some black people (and others), no health care or inadequate health care, persists. Low cost clinics for the poor, with limited access to needed diagnostic and treatment opportunities, provides care that is too little and too late. In 1965, Medicare and Medicaid outlawed segregation in health care funded by federal dollars. However, even with Medicaid (coverage for the poor) and the 2010 Affordable Care Act, access is limited and variable as these federal programs are largely implemented on a state-by-state basis. When not covered by federal health programs, coverage for care is mainly depended on employment, often not accessible to Blacks.
Fallacies presented as fact regarding nature of black physiology and intelligence, promoted beliefs that Blacks did not experience pain the same as whites and have weak lungs, which was correctable by hard labor (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/racial-differences-doctors.html) Brutal experiments on the characteristics of black skin, and obstetrical and gynecological surgical treatments, conducted without anesthesia are present in the historical medical literature. There was even a claim that attempts to escape the horrendous conditions of slavery was a mental illness caused by slave owners who treated their slaves as equals. Remnants of some of these unfounded ideas still exist in medical education.
Read. Think. Talk about it. Join us November 16th, 2020 at 6:30 pm to hear more about the past and present issues of health disparities. Then, join us on November 19th, 2020 to discuss the impact on people now.
Be Aware. B’more Human. Be Ready to Make Change Happen.