What Causes Disparities?
COVID-19 shed even more light on this nation's overwhelming health disparities. And in our previous article titled "Race and Place Matter to Your Health," we discussed how someone's home address impacts their lifespan. Taking a more in-depth look, this article will share how we (or WE), as a nation, continue to cause these health disparities and various ways to impact long-term change positively.
Why Health Disparities Continue
While socioeconomic differences contribute to unequal outcomes, research shows health disparities exist even when controlling for education and income. For example, nationwide, Black females with a graduate degree or higher were almost twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white females without a high school diploma. In other words, income and education alone do not explain why people of color face worse health outcomes than their white counterparts. Research offers insights into other causes of disparities that are more directly related to race and ethnicity.
Many studies show Black, and Latino patients receive less consistent treatment than white patients. The research found Hispanic patients were half as likely to be given pain medication when they went to the emergency room with a broken bone. Likewise, Black patients with heart issues were significantly less likely than white patients to receive therapeutic interventions when necessary.
The stress of experiencing racism
Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian-American subgroups are disproportionately represented in lower socioeconomic ranks, lower-quality schools, and poorer-paying jobs. This research suggests people can suffer a physical toll from the stress of experiencing racism and discrimination. An example is when people receive more inadequate service than others in stores or restaurants, are harassed by others, or have people act as if they are afraid of you. Studies have found links between experiencing discrimination and negative physical and mental health consequences, including depression. Research suggests that bias could also lead to poorer health with repeated activation of the body's stress response system, which can have adverse long-term physiological and psychological effects.
Improve data collection and act on it
Collecting data and analyzing it to where you (and your organization or business) understand how race, ethnicity, geography, education, gender, and income impact access to health services can provide insight on how to fix these issues. Learning more about these disparities can help decrease inequalities.
Promote equitable health care for all
Whether you are a regular supporter of health care and its workers, an organization working to impact health, or not quite sure how to make an impact on health disparities, supporting health care coverage for all is an excellent first step. Likewise, helping those in the community (doctors/nurses, hospitals, and health institutes) who promote health equity will go a long way.
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