Eliminating health care disparities will require systemic change

African Americans and other diverse populations in western Michigan and across the United States have fought for their rights and equality and have seen progress.

A real discussion of history and its long-term negative impact on some diverse groups is underway, with more attention being paid to how we can address these issues. Lawmakers also addressed past discrimination by recognizing racism as a national health crisis.

While this is an opportunity to celebrate, we still have a long way to go and there remains a need to address the inequalities that directly affect the health and well-being of our communities.

At Grand Rapids African American Health Institute (GRAAHI), one of the biggest hurdles we tackle every day is the ongoing battle against disparities in the quality of health care for African Americans and other diverse groups in the world. Michigan.

The arrival of COVID-19 has further amplified our understanding of the racial inequalities embedded in Michigan’s health care system – African Americans being hit hardest by the disease in part due to a higher level of health problems under – related – and to what extent the quality of care may differ based solely on a patient’s race. Still, research carried out on behalf of Consumers for Quality Care (CQC) shows that this is not just a problem in Michigan. A majority (56%) of Americans agree that COVID-19 has exposed racial disparities in our system.

Here are some sobering statistics:

In 2017, 10.6% of African Americans were uninsured, compared to 5.9% of non-Hispanic whites. 16.1 percent of Hispanics were uninsured.

12.1 percent of African Americans under 65 reported having no health insurance coverage. The number was 20.1 percent for Hispanics.

13.8% of African Americans reported fair or poor health, compared with 8.3% of non-Hispanic whites

African Americans have the highest cancer death rate, compared to any other racial and ethnic group.

In Kent County, African American infants are 2.5 times more likely to die before age 1 than white infants, and 2.2 times more likely to be born with low birth weight.

Our goal must be to remove these racial disparities in health care, but it will be a long battle and will require systemic changes beyond health care. At GRAAHI, we are on the front line to fight against these disparities.

The disconnect between minorities and healthcare is reflected in the distribution of healthcare workers. Less than 20 percent of registered nurses identify as minorities, despite minorities making up 40 percent of the US population. In 2018, 13% of the U.S. population was black, but only 5.4 percent of physicianss were African American.

One way to address health care disparities is to encourage more minorities to work in health care. Lack of diverse representation is one of the reasons many people of color are reluctant to seek appropriate care, preventative or otherwise, so the role of African American healthcare providers is critical in building trust and confidence. improve health outcomes in communities of color.

To support the growing diversity of healthcare providers, GRAAHI is working with colleges and universities in western Michigan, with support from Kellogg, to help create a pipeline of students of all ethnicities, from high school to careers in health care.

It is also essential to increase awareness of social determinants and key issues affecting the health of various populations. Advocacy, education and research will be essential to effectively improve health outcomes.

Our end goal is to create a culture where we have gone beyond the need to address inequalities and can ensure that everyone can access a healthy lifestyle, preventative care and understand how to navigate the healthcare system. .

We can create real, impactful and meaningful healthcare change for diverse populations by eliminating disparities and ensuring that all residents of West Michigan receive affordable, quality care without race being a factor. determining.

– Vanessa Greene is Executive Director of the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute.

About Geraldine Higgins

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