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health systems

Racial identity and the health system

By Austin Frakt

For centuries privileged classes have placed people into racial categories and acted upon them in ways that reflect and cement power. Racial discrimination has been woven into the fabric of many, if not all, U.S. institutions. The health system is not immune.

My colleague Aaron Carroll, professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, wrote about this at The New York Times’ Upshot earlier this year. His piece, chock full of evidence from research, is worth your time.

There’s significant literature documenting that African-American patients are treated differently than white patients when it comes to cardiovascular procedures. There were differences in whether they received optimal care with respect to a cancer diagnosis and treatment. African-Americans were less likely to receive appropriate care when they were infected with H.I.V. They were also more likely to die from these illnesses even after adjusting for age, sex, insurance, education and the severity of the disease. […]

In 2017, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality issued its 15th yearly report on health care quality and disparities, as called for by the medical institute in 2002. It found that while some disparities had gotten better, many remained. The most recent data available showed that 40 percent of the quality measures were still worse for blacks than whites. Other groups fared worse as well. Measures were worse for 20 percent of Asian-Americans, 30 percent of Native Americans, and one third of Pacific Islanders and Hispanics.

Go read the whole thing. And, I highly recommend the podcast series “Seeing White.”