Race and Medical Treatment

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Finding Good Medical Treatment Is Hard. If You’re Not White, It’s Even Harder.

According to articles in the New York Times and other sources, people of color tend to receive less treatment for pain than whites. In addition, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and others have documented disparities in recognizing and treating pain among people of color, particularly black patients. Pharmacies in poor white neighborhoods are 54 times as likely in poor neighborhoods of color to have adequate supplies of opioids, and blacks are less likely to have opioids prescribed for them than similarly situated whites.  Read the NYTimes article here.

Medical care, in general, is not offered to people of color at the same level of care as white patients. “Mounting research finds that racial bias and discrimination in health care as well as outside of medicine contribute to poor health for African-American patients and other racial and ethnic minorities.  “I believe that a racist system of health kills people. There is ample evidence to show that,” says Wyatt, who cowrote an opinion piece on racial bias in medicine for the Journal of the American Medical Association in August.”   Even subtle cues – like body language – can differ in patient-doctor interactions, depending on a doctor’s biases and whether a patient is white or black. Dr. Amber Barnato, an associate professor of medicine and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, recently led research evaluating these interactions by having actors play caregivers and patients receiving end-of-life care.  But nonverbally the doctors were less likely to do little things that display empathy or built rapport. “For example, they would use more closed posture and they had their arms crossed, or had their hands in their pockets. They would stand further away from the bed,” Barnato says. “They would spend more time looking at the nurse or the monitor and less time touching the patient.”   Read more here.