Are Prejudice and Health Care Related?

President Donald Trump fueled racial divides last weekend when he said NFL players should stand during the National Anthem or get fired. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality against black people and other players have followed suit. On Sunday, teams responded by kneeling, not taking the field during the Anthem and linking arms with owners. Fans had mixed reviews and social media feeds were filled with statuses on the meaning of patriotism. In other news, another attempt at Obamacare overhaul failed to gain enough votes in Congress. 

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There has been plenty of anecdotal talk about how prejudice and health care are related. But are they? The link between prejudice and medical consequences is not direct, but those in disadvantaged groups, such as non-whites or with mental or physical disabilities, can be affected if they do not have adequate access to health care. And they often don’t. A National Health Interview Survey released by the Center of Disease Control in 2013 found that 30.3 percent of Hispanics and 18.9 of non-Hispanic blacks do not have health insurance. Additionally, the median income of an African American household was $39,490 whereas the median income of a non-Hispanic white household was $65,041. What’s interesting is the recent bureau data noted an increase in racial disparity since 1999; the median income for African American households has decreased by 1.6 percent since then. Less income generally means less money to spend on health expenses such as out of network emergency care, co-pays and premiums and/or lower quality health care plans.

A study published in the American Behavioral Scientist in 2013 explored  how fundamental social status categories like socioeconomic status, race, gender and age are linked to variations in medical care, educational and employment opportunities, stigma and various stereotypes. How? Though disadvantaged social status categories are the basics of one’s health status, and something that can’t be changed for the most part, other complex factors like the environment and/or culture can impact someone’s health and upbringing. A white person who lives with a smoker may be more at risk for lung cancer than a Hispanic person who lives in a smoke-free home. In other words, the answer is not simple and there are many ways outside influences can affect the inherent socioeconomic status one is born into.

dr. uruj kamal

dr. uruj kamal

Dr. Uruj Kamal is Chief Resident of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center-University of Massachusetts Medical School. A Stony Brook native, she enjoys combining her knowledge of mental health with healthy living. Dr. Kamal has a special interest in outpatient adult psychiatry.