The Differences Between Us: Disparities in American Healthcare

The Differences Between Us: Disparities in American Healthcare

06/23/2020

Photo: Alterio Felines / Pixabay

dailynexus.com

COVID-19 appears to target minority communities because of its increased lethality for those under poor economic or social circumstances. In large cities such as New York, ethnic minorities may live in more densely populated zones as a result of housing segregation. This makes it much more difficult to follow social distancing procedures, resulting in a death rate for African Americans which is double that of white folk, as reported by the New York Times. 

Moreover, many ethnic minorities in the United States are incarcerated at disproportionate rates compared to their share of the population in detention centers and prisons, where shared facilities and denser populations contribute to a steeper COVID-19 death toll. 

Certain minorities also suffer increased exposure to COVID-19 due to their increased prevalence in riskier work environments. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 25% of Hispanic and Black laborers are employed in essential industries, as compared to 16% of white laborers. Additionally, Hispanic workers endure reduced access to paid sick leave, which may encourage infected laborers to continue working despite presenting a risk to their coworkers. 

On a related note, as The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) describes, there is disproportionately low accessibility to healthcare among people of color. White individuals are three times as likely to be insured than Hispanics and twice as likely as African Americans. 

This reflects an age-old inconsistency of resource distribution that stems from institutionalized racism.   

According to infographics released by U.S. Vital Statistics, almost 300 more Black individuals die compared to whites within a sample size of 100,000 people in the 50 to 64-year-old age group. Within the same age group, 18% of Black individuals were unable to seek medical assistance due to cost compared to 12% of whites. 

In an effort to reduce the inequities, the U.S. federal government has arranged national programs designed to deliver healthcare to disproportionately affected African Americans. One such program, Million Hearts, is a national initiative that implements priorities to prevent one million strokes and heart attacks within the span of five years. This is achieved by providing more affordable and effective diagnoses of hypertension and cholesterol management procedures to more people, particularly those that are in underserved communities. 

Healthy People 2020 is another government program that promotes the well-being of all people by supporting healthy social environments. This initiative focuses on mending the five determinants that cause underlying health disparities, namely economic stability, education, social and community context, healthcare, and neighborhood environment. Healthy People also tracks factors that affect the distribution of healthcare, including graduation and unemployment rates. 

These efforts have since made a noticeable impact on diminishing inequities. The CDC reported in 2017 a 25% decrease in the African American death rate in the past 17 years, especially among those 65 and older. 

Positive trends like these are not atypical. The percentage of uninsured Hispanic adults dropped from 24.4% in 2013 to 14.4% in 2018, according to Xtelligent Healthcare Media. For Black individuals, the 40.2% of uninsured patients dropped to 24.9% within the same time span. 

Research published by the CDC and NCBI have demonstrated an upwards trend; minority health disparities are shown to have diminished steadily over the past decades. Though achieving completely equitable healthcare is an uphill battle, medical professionals are optimistic that future generations will benefit from efficient healthcare delivery regardless of ethnic backgrounds. 

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