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Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in the US

Limited access to quality medical care, the biased attitude of health care professionals, and the absence of affordable insurance plans are just some of the problems the ethnic minorities face in the US. Throughout the past decades, the US population has been continuously growing, mainly as a result of immigration. Millions of Asians and Latinos left their countries to pursue a better future in the “land of the opportunity”. However, numerous studies have shown that minorities are unlikely to enjoy equal opportunities compared to the white population when it comes to medical care. Centuries of racial segregation in the US have created disparities in all major industries, and health care is not an exception.

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One of the long-standing problems faced by minorities is physicians’ bias. James (2017) suggests that the wrongful belief that African Americans have better pain tolerance is one of the reasons physicians are less inclined to prescribe analgesics to them. The drug abuse stereotypes can also contribute to physicians’ decisions. Cole et al. (2018) state that “racial bias has had a long-standing and significant impact on narcotics law enforcement, which has adversely influenced the public’s perception and societal response to substance abuse among African Americans” (para. 6). Overall, despite the problem receiving a significant amount of publicity in recent years, both implicit and explicit bias among physicians remain one of the most pressing issues in the US healthcare industry.

Residential segregation can have a significant influence on public health. Cole et al. (2018) note that Latin and African American communities predominantly reside in the “low-opportunities” areas that lack a quality education, business opportunities, and adequate health facilities. Cole et al. (2018) add that as a result, “African Americans have disproportionate adverse health outcomes, including higher rates of chronic illness, stress-related illness, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and heart disease” (para. 16). Residential segregation is a factor that shows how racial and ethnic health disparities are consequential to the long-term racial issues faced by minorities in the US.

Insurance coverage has been another major problem in the healthcare industry in the US for decades. Chen et al. (2016) note that it contributed to the racial and ethnic health disparities the most. However, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) improved the situation significantly. Chen et al. (2016) claim that the percentage of uninsured African Americans and Latinos dropped by a few percent and conclude that ACA could potentially eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in the long term. However, it is important to notice that this study focuses solely on medical care accessibility, but not on quality and health outcomes. Hence, despite the positive impact of ACA, it can not be viewed as a universal solution to all racial and ethnic healthcare-related issues.

As racial and ethnic health disparities gain more recognition and publicity, health institutions begin to implement studies that focus on this issue. Dasgupta (2009) suggests a few ways to tackle the problem of implicit bias. For instance, increased exposure to the counter stereotypic behaviors of the members of the marginalized groups has shown to attenuate bias towards the groups significantly. Moreover, other studies have demonstrated that an unbiased attitude can be achieved through training. Dasgupta (2009) states that “cognitive elaboration is likely to enhance the accessibility of counter stereotypic attributes associated with target groups that emerge with greater strength in subsequent implicit evaluations”. Overall, these studies provide invaluable input on reversing implicit bias, and the use of the suggested methods could have a major impact on the healthcare industry among the others.

The problem of health disparities takes its place among the most pressing issues faced by minorities in the US. Notably, in recent years, this matter has drawn a lot of attention, and the government has taken steps to improve the situation. ACA, in particular, has been successful at addressing insurance coverage issues among low-income households. However, as studies have shown, the negative consequences of racial segregation are still affecting the healthcare industry, and new policies are required to deal with it.


Chen, J., Vargas-Bustamante, A., Mortensen, K., & Ortega, A. N. (2016). Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care Access and Utilization Under the Affordable Care Act. Medical Care, 54 (2), 140-146. Web.

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Cole, D. M., Thomas, D. M., Field, K., Wool, A., Lipiner, T., Massenberg, N., & Guthrie, B. J. (2018). The 21st Century Cures Act Implications for the Reduction of Racial Health Disparities in the US Criminal Justice System: a Public Health Approach. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 5, 885-893. Web.

Dasgupta, N. (2009). Mechanisms underlying the malleability of implicit prejudice and stereotypes: the role of automaticity and cognitive control. In T. D. Nelson (Ed.), Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (pp. 267-284). Taylor & Francis Group.

James, S. A. (2017). The strangest of all encounters: racial and ethnic discrimination in US health care. Cadernos de Saúde Pública. Web. 

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 3). Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in the US.

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StudyCorgi. "Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in the US." January 3, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in the US." January 3, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in the US'. 3 January.

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