The world as we know it is experiencing an awakening like no other when it comes to systemic racism. By now we are all privy to the recorded injustices and murders at the hands of police officers, but very few people consider systemic racism in the light of the health care system. On June 5, healthcare facilities across the United States came together for “White Coats for Black Lives.” This initiative aims to provide a period of silent reflection for participants regarding the public health crisis of systemic racism. My social media timeline was flooded with videos and photographs of hospital facilities from New York, California, northern Alabama and Georgia of white coat health care professionals taking a knee. While I was moved by the participation across the U.S., I was disheartened by the fact that not one of the four major healthcare systems in Mobile participated. I give kudos to the Mitchell Cancer Institute of Mobile for leading by example and participating. Am I surprised? Not at all! This lack of participation in my city has only fueled my passion to bridge the long-lived racial health disparity gap.
Implicit bias and racial disparity in health care is no new phenomenon, but in recent years the media has been bombarded with stories of personal encounters of this injustice by celebrities and noncelebrities. Studies have shown that minorities are more likely to be diagnosed or die from preventable diseases than any other race. Apart from the proven low quality of care received by Blacks from health care providers, many Blacks tend to avoid seeking care until it is a medical emergency because of a lack of trust and poor health literacy. This mistrust and poor health literacy can be attributed to years of misdiagnosis, mistreatment and the use of experimentation at the hands of researching physicians. Silence on behalf of white coat professionals only perpetuates this injustice.
Now more than ever is the time for white coats to join forces with the people against systemic racism. Some may argue that we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no time to participate in such antitics, and to that I stand boldly and disagree. The COVID-19 pandemic disportionately affects the Black community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Blacks account for 33 percent of COVID-related hospitalizations and 56 percent of COVID deaths. Yes, even in the midst of a pandemic, racial health disparities still exist. As we’ve learned during this time, physical representation and support matters. FINALLY, it seems as if the cries of the Black community are being heard.
So to the four major health care facilities and white coat professionals in the city of Mobile, I ask that you consider my words as you continue to service and heal our communities. In order to properly address and treat the health infirmities that plague our community, we must address the coexisting ailment that exacerbates the illness.
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