In modern society, where certain groups are institutionally provided with privileged treatment, power dynamics are most often unjust. Uneven distribution of resources and social capital leaves the minority groups vulnerable against the power violations and discrimination within educational, political, and, most relevantly for this paper, medical institutions. Reported levels of emotional safety and trust a patient feels they can exhibit towards a doctor tends to correlate negatively with whether they’re white. This essay in particular reviews two articles on the topics of racism and ethnical disparities to discuss the reluctancy minority groups exhibit when in need of medical assistance.
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Despite the heterogeneity in experiences exhibited by the wide range of ethnic minority groups, comparative disadvantage in opportunities and income levels form a common pattern. In practice this pattern translates to lower rates of access to private and advanced medical treatment. Comparatively financially constrained, minority groups avail to the low-cost or public services, where the professionals’ perception of them is often shaped by racist stereotypes or ignorance-based misconceptions. As of 2016, 73% of surveyed population displayed, at least to an extent, a false belief that Black people possess higher levels of pain tolerance (Hoffman et al, 2016). This study not only explained the systematic pain undertreatment experienced by Back and mixed-race patients in the American health system but provided an insight into the field state in general.
The perception of Black and mixed-race patients as physically stronger, more resilient, and biologically resourceful than their white counterparts is a colonial legacy. It originates from the dehumanizing perception the privileged groups were exhibiting towards the slaves they viewed as objects, prized for their durability. The remains of these biases today affect the disproportional disparities in experiences racially different groups account for in their medical treatment. In turn, the disparities result in lower levels of trust towards physicians, which compel the patients to delay the seeking of medical care. The 2009 study of Black prostate cancer patients has shown that the lower levels of physician trust are correlated with the access barriers surrounding the treatment (Do et al, 2009). The correlation is easy to dissect, since the trust between a doctor and a patient is only achievable through a positive relationship between them. In turn, for a positive relationship to be probable, a patient would need to have a continuous access to a physician’s services, which in most cases includes an insurance coverage.
Nevertheless, in recent years the American healthcare field has began to evolve, shifting towards greater inclusivity and accessibility. Modern policy makers often prioritize the reduction of these barriers with the intention of their eventual removal, as healthcare remains a basic human right. The 2019 study of Medicaid beneficiaries has identified a set of specific barriers that policy makers should focus on in further efforts. The list includes the transportation barriers for the impoverished urban communities and the quality inconsistencies between urban and rural levels of medical service (Martino et al, 2019). Medicaid’s definitive attention to the potential disparities in the experiences of its patients has resulted in the improvement of these experiences for their Black and Hispanic beneficiaries within the last five years.
In conclusion, the issue of racial disparities in medicine is a prevalent and pressing one for the American healthcare, due to its colonial legacy. In many cases, they result in lower life expectancies and treatment efficiency levels of racially marginalized patients, targeting their human rights. However, with proper policy changes to dismantle the existing accessibility barriers and prejudices within the treatment itself, healthcare institutions have a chance to evolve and provide equal levels of service.
Do, Y., Carpenter, W., Spain, P., Clark, J., Hamilton, R., & Galanko, J. et al. (2009). Race, healthcare access and physician trust among prostate cancer patients. Cancer Causes & Control, 21(1), 31-40.
Hoffman, K., Trawalter, S., Axt, J., & Oliver, M. (2016). Racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, 113(16), 4296-4301.
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Martino, S., Mathews, M., Agniel, D., Orr, N., Wilson-Frederick, S., & Ng, J. et al. (2019). National racial/ethnic and geographic disparities in experiences with health care among adult Medicaid beneficiaries. Health Services Research, 54, 287-296.