The systematic racism in healthcare

September 28, 2020 10:34 AM

a crown icon and the words "rising voices award winner"
A cardboard sign reads "RACISM IS A PANDEMIC." Photo courtesy of Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona by Unsplash.

A cardboard sign reads "RACISM IS A PANDEMIC." Photo courtesy of Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona by Unsplash.

Dear healthcare professionals of Boston,

Hi my name is Jersey and I’m a 16-year-old high school student here in Boston. I wanted to bring your attention to the fact that racial profiling and discrimination in the American heathcare system is a big problem in today’s society that needs to be addressed. 

Unfortunately, I experience this every time I go to the hospital. I don't usually get sick or hurt, so when I go to the hospital for something it's because I think it is serious. One instance where I felt racially profiled was when my head was stuck turned to the left and I felt back pain whenever I tried to turn it back. While I was at the hospital, waiting for hours to be seen, I told the nurse (who was white) how I deal with constant back pain. The nurse just gave me a neck pillow brace, some pain medication, told me it was because of stress and sent me home. I still constantly felt back pain afterwards, so I made an appointment again and this time was seen by an Asian doctor who finally sent me to get an MRI and suggested I get physical therapy. All it took was someone being more patient and willing to listen suggesting things for me to get the help I deserved. This is a real thing that goes on today whether people want to believe it or not, and I am not alone in this struggle.

The American Academy of Family Physicians made a statement in 2019 on the institutional racism that goes on in the healthcare system by saying, “[h]ospitals and clinics, which were once designated for racial and ethnic minorities, continue to experience significant financial constraints and are often under-resourced and improperly staffed. These issues result in inequities in access to and quality of health care and are major contributors to racial and ethnic health disparities.” They made an extremely valid point that the hospitals that were originally meant for minorities are underfunded and aren’t given proper resources to treat people of color correctly.  

Furthermore, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences did a study on how white medical students view Black and white patients and the false belief of biological differences. The study found that “Study 1 documented these beliefs among white laypersons and revealed that participants who more strongly endorsed false beliefs about biological differences reported lower pain ratings for a black (vs. white) target. Study 2 extended these findings to the medical context and found that half of a sample of white medical students and residents endorsed these beliefs.” Those beliefs were that there are biological differences between Black and white people that alters the way they report pain. This goes to show there are white medical students who will one day be medical professionals who have endorsed this false belief that Black people have more pain tolerance than white people. This is a very dangerous way of thinking for the future doctors and nurses of our country. This causes Black people and people of color to be denied the same treatment for the same pain that whites people receive.

These beliefs are why people of color are more likely to develop worse health conditions than white people. The study also revealed, “Specifically, in the present research, we provide evidence that white laypeople and medical students and residents believe that the black body is biologically different—and in many cases, stronger—than the white body.” This conclusion that the white persons has created roots back all the way to slavery and feeds into the idea that Black people are used to pain and therefore have a higher pain tolerance. 


Jersey Oller

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