Physician viewpoint: 4 ways to address systemic inequities in healthcare

COVID-19 has laid bare racial inequities in the American healthcare system, offering an opportunity to more broadly assess structural racism in healthcare, three New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University clinicians wrote in a perspectives article published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

The article's authors are:

  • Max Jordan Nguemeni Tiako, a fourth-year medical student at the Yale School of Medicine
  • Howard Forman, MD, a professor at Yale's School of Public Health, School of Management and School of Medicine
  • Marcella Nuñez-Smith, MD,  associate professor of internal medicine, public health and management at the Yale School of Medicine

The article's authors argue that there are various factors making healthcare outcomes worse for people of color, including that they often have less access to expensive, higher quality medical care. People of color are also more likely to have jobs that can't be done remotely, which has put them at greater risk of infection, according to the article. These disparities pose numerous health consequences for people of color, with Black people dying at 3.4 times the rate of white people from COVID-19, Yale University said.

The authors outlined numerous steps health systems can take to address these disparities and work toward a more equitable healthcare system. Four such actions are below:

  • Collect racial and sociodemographic data to identify disparities and develop strategies to combat them. 
  • Diversify their workforces and combat workplace discrimination faced by employees of color.
  • Pay workers of color a living wage.
  • Collaborate with community organizations to meet the needs of the communities they serve.

"This pandemic may not end any time soon and certainly will not be the last we experience," the article's authors concluded. "Therefore, healthcare workers and health systems should recognize the societal barriers patients and workers face and implement strategies to eliminate biased practices in the provision of healthcare as well as through the compensation structure and workplace protection of healthcare workers, especially when the healthcare system experiences undue stress." 

To view the full article, click here.

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