Perspectives

Thousands of Blacks Die Annually Due To Health Care Disparities and Biases


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A new book claims that nearly 84,000 black and brown lives are lost each year in the United States due to health care disparities and unconscious racial and ethnic bias in the health care professions.

Dayna Bowen Matthew just released a new book Just Medicine – A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care published by the New York University Press.

She claims that African Americans and Latinos suffer from unconscious racial and ethnic biases by physicians, institutional providers and even the patients themselves.  This implicit bias often leads to unintentional stereotyping and disparate care from Caucasians.

Matthew is a lawyer, law professor and health-care analyst. She is a professor of law at the University of Colorado Law School and the Colorado School of Public Health.  This year she also is in Washington, D. C. as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow.  She also has co-founded the Colorado Health Equity Project.

Matthew claims that unconscious and unintentional racism is the single most important determinant in health care disparities. She says that unjust and avoidable discrimination based upon race and ethnicity alone is a fundamental cause of destructive and even deadly health disparities between races.

Matthew proves her thesis with a study of our history of health care and an analysis of current health care procedures and patient interactions.

She also notes that even in 2016 that infant mortality is twice the rate among African American women than white women – even at the upper ends of the socio-economic scales.

Matthew suggests that legal action needs to be taken to rectify these disparities. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 could be an effective legal tool for eradicating racial and ethnic bias in health care, she claims.

She also says that the Affordable Care Act contains the first civil rights provision that specifically prohibits discrimination in health care.  It also should be used to erase the disparities and eradicate the implicit racism, according to Matthew.