Two deadly viruses are killing Americans: COVID-19 and racism. And when combined, they culminate in even more dangerous health outcomes for Black communities across America.
Black Americans endure racial discrimination, microaggressions and antagonization from nearly every American institution. It’s visible in the disproportionate incarceration rates, unemployment statistics and home ownership demographics. Unsurprisingly, this disparity appears, too, in one of the systems most vital to public safety: health care.
The U.S. health care system is flawed in the sense that health outcomes differ drastically across racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Research shows that racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than their white counterparts — even when factors such as insurance status, income and age are comparable.
This, in turn, has led to abysmal statistics concerning the health care of Black individuals. For example, in comparison to white Americans, Black Americans are twice as likely to die from diabetes. In addition, breast cancer death rates are 40 percent higher among Black women than white women. Studies have also shown Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women. To make matters worse, Black individuals are tested and screened for these conditions far less than white patients.
The lack of universal health insurance has clearly played a role in the current treatment of Black Americans within the U.S. health care system. However, a variety of other factors have impacted these individuals as well, including the systematic disenfranchisement of African Americans, conscious and unconscious bias and a lack of community-wide health care resources and public health proposals.