Ethnic and racial minorities face difficult challenges associated with limited access to health care in the country. The care they receive may also not be the same as that received by other groups. This is because of the existence of complex issues associated with a possible difference in the ability to pay, the behavior of providers towards them, differential treatment by providers, the difference in preferences, and geographical variability, among many other factors. African Americans, therefore, represent a racial and ethnic group that experiences some level of differences when it comes to access to health care including health insurance1. This is a problem that raises major public health concerns as it highlights institutional elements and cultural factors that need consideration.
African Americans stand as the least healthy racial and ethnic group in the United States. This is based on a legacy of many years of racial and social injustice that has established a very formidable challenge to equitable health care for all people. There still remain systemic causes of suboptimal health care for African Americans, and they highlight the need for systemic solutions. Health care for African Americans is not comparable to that of white Americans. However, the day that it stands equal, is the day that would be the end of many of the disabilities and health limitations that African Americans face. It would also lead to the improvement of their economic status as well as to their overall improvement in capabilities by stimulating their potential as a racial and ethnic group in the country2.
As explained above, the health care situation in the country is not due to chance. Social factors play a major role in health disparities for African Americans. These factors include environmental exposure, criminal justice, limited access to healthy foods, violence, lack of proper housing, racism, education, poverty, and many other factors. Racism which forms the basis of most of the above problems, can be defined as the belief in race as the predominant determining factor of people’s characteristics and the capabilities which produced an inherent superiority of one race over others3. Race is thus a factor in health disparity and explores the foundation for many of the factors limiting African Americans. The issue with racism in the United States is that it is systemic. It is also organized culturally and socially through processes of prejudice, exclusion, and discrimination3.
It is, however, important for African Americans to have access to health care, and one of the primary ways is through medical insurance. Health insurance represents a safety net for people that allow them to access health care that is beyond their ability to pay. It is based on risk pooling from multiple people allowing them to have adequate access to proper medical care. Of even greater importance is health care equity. It means giving patients there care they need whenever they require it. Health care should not contrast in quality because of an individual’s characteristics4. Therefore, health care equity refers to the absence of systematic disparities in health care caused by different levels of social advantages and disadvantages. The overall well-being of all people in society is critical. Disparities in health care access only increase public health concerns5.
A good example is how the country is dealing with the COVID 19 pandemic. Disparities in access to medical insurance and other forms of medical healthcare have limited the overall capacity of the nation’s health care system to adequately deal with the pandemic6. When the needs some social groups are not adequately addressed, then it becomes difficult to put measures into place to deal with the deal7. The examples offer a description of the effects of disparities, whereby the limitations of one group will always affect the other and that the only solution is the promotion of equity.
1. Beck AF, Edwards EM, Horbar JD, Howell EA, McCormick MC, Pursley DM. The color of health: how racism, segregation, and inequality affect the health and well-being of preterm infants and their families. Pediatric research. 2020;87(2):227-234. doi:10.1038/s41390-019-0513-6
2. McNeill Timothy P., Shirley Aaron, Orey Erin Shirley, Shahbazi Mohammed, Hayes Sandra C., Ramsey Lorie. A Community-Based Approach to Address Health Disparities Among African American Medicare Beneficiaries in Mississippi. Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging. 2014;38(4):52-59.
3. Michael Tillotson, Willa M. Doswell, Chereese M. Phillips. Finding a Voice: an Allocentric Worldview to Guide Effective Reduction of Behavioral Health Disparities in African Americans. Journal of African American Studies. 2015;19(1):65-78.
4. Tillotson M, Doswell W, Phillips C. Finding a Voice: an Allocentric Worldview to Guide Effective Reduction of Behavioral Health Disparities in African Americans. Journal of African American Studies. 2015;19(1):65-78. doi:10.1007/s12111-014-9290-9
5. Egede LE, Walker RJ. Structural Racism, Social Risk Factors, and Covid-19 - A Dangerous Convergence for Black Americans. The New England journal of medicine. 2020;383(12):e77. doi:10.1056/NEJMp2023616
6. Tipirneni R. A Data-Informed Approach to Targeting Social Determinants of Health as the Root Causes of COVID-19 Disparities. American Journal of Public Health. 2021;111(4):620-622.
7. Waterfield KC, Shah GH, Etheredge GD, Ikhile O. Consequences of COVID-19 crisis for persons with HIV: the impact of social determinants of health. BMC public health. 2021;21(1):299. doi:10.1186/s12889-021-10296-9
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