Health and Illness Racism's Role Essay

Pages: 9 (2614 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race


This seems to smack of a racist bias against people of color. This look at certain disparities is disturbing if it is due to race, even if unconscious racism, but other factors have to be examined to make sure that race is the lone cause.

Another historical fact is that people of color have a lower socioeconomic status than do people of Caucasian origin (GIH, 2010). This is very definitely a back lash from the time when people of color were not afforded the same opportunities as whites, but the lower socioeconomic lifestyle is a recorded fact (LeCook, McGuire, Lock, & Zaslavsky, 2010). However, many people with a Caucasian background also suffer from a much lower socioeconomic status than other similar ethnic types. Findings such as this that "residential segregation determines access to education and employment opportunities and, in turn, creates conditions inimical to health in the physical and social environment. (Wang, et al., 2010). This means that people who live in bad areas receive poor healthcare regardless of their race. In this instance it is a question of location and not racial makeup.

These findings are nothing new. There have been many studies which contend that racial inequality in healthcare is not a racial problem, but a social one.

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"[H]ealth inequalities have implicitly been understood to refer to health differences between better- and worse-off socioeconomic groups. Socioeconomic position typically is measured based on: educational attainment; occupational characteristics (e.g., manual vs. nonmanual work, or more detailed categories corresponding to the prestige, control/power, and/or earnings that typically accompany a given job); income/expenditures, accumulated wealth, or living conditions; health insurance; or residence in geographic areas with particular social or economic conditions" (Braveman, 2006).

Research done in this area has looked at race as an antecedent, but it has been found that it is more a social function and "not a racial or ethnic one" (Fiscella, Franks, Doescher, & Saver, 2002).


TOPIC: Essay on Health and Illness Racism's Role Assignment

The problem with all of this is that none of it is conclusive. On the one hand, it is a historical fact that people in the United States have been racially and ethnically discriminated against, even in the realm of healthcare (Thomas, 2001). Because of that discrimination those people of color have not enjoyed the educational, financial and occupational attainments of people with lighter skin (Fiscella, Franks, Doescher, & Saver, 2002). However, there is also a large amount of evidence that, regardless of race, people who are have a low socioeconomic status do not receive the same healthcare as people in a higher status (Wang, et al. 2010).

However, there is some other evidence that a racial component exists. Bhopal (1998) reports, "consistent and repeated findings that black Americans receive less health care than white Americans -- particularly where this involves expensive new technology." Specifically related to "different disease patterns; different level of contact with doctors, especially specialists; financial and organisational barriers; patients' preferences; and the fact that doctors managed their patients differently on the basis of race" (Bhopal, 1998).

Because both findings have validity it is difficult to make a decision regarding the truthfulness of either finding. Research needs to control for race and see if there remains a difference between people who are of different socioeconomic statuses within the races. If a study was to be conducted with just African-American participants or just Hispanic participants, then it would be easier to reach a definite answer. As it is, both sides of the issue have valid research to back up their claims.


Disparity of access cannot be said to be due to racial prejudice any more than it can be said to be because people who have six toes on their left foot are being targeted. The research does point out that there is definitely a difference in the quality of care that people who are middle class and above receive relative to people who are of a lower socioeconomic status, but this can more easily be dealt with than changing an entrenched racist idea that some healthcare professional may have.

Access to quality healthcare does need to change because all people deserve to receive equitable coverage for their illnesses. People should not die just because they could not afford as good a doctor as someone else. But it is also difficult to vilify healthcare professionals. They are going to practice where they can feel safe and where they can make the most money. Some people will be completely altruistic and sacrifice monetary gain for principle, but that cannot be legislated.

It is a societal ill that people cannot receive better healthcare because of where they live and how much money they make. However, it is also difficult to change this also. People like living in a society where they have the advantages of free markets instead of a socialized redistribution of wealth. So, some societal ills are going to exist. If the problem is race, then that should always be prosecuted. Laws are in place to combat that. But, telling a person they have to work somewhere because there is a lack of adequate healthcare in that location will be difficult to implement. Social programs that provide the money to underfunded institutions to provide the most up-to-date medical machines, and the personnel to use them, could be an equitable solution though.

Most likely, racism does exist to some small extent, but to say it is a major issue is a stretch according to the research. However, healthcare is not equitable, so changes to the system need to be made.


Bhopal, R. (1998). Spectre of race and racism in health and health care: Lessons from history and the United States. Behavioral Medicine Journal, 316. 1970-1973.

Braveman, P. (2006). Health disparities and health equity: Concepts and measurement. Annual Review of Public Health, 27. 167-194.

Fiscella, K., Franks, P., Doescher, M.P., & Saver, B.G. (2002). Disparities in health care by race, ethnicity, and language among the insured: Findings from a national sample. Medical Care, 40(1). 52-59.

GIH. (2010). Racism: Combating the root causes of health disparities. GIH Bulletin.

Krieger, N. (2003). Does racism harm health? Did child abuse exist before 1962? On explicit questions, critical science, and current controversies: An ecosocial perspective.

LeCook, B., McGuire, T.G., Lock, K., & Zaslavsky, A.M. (2010). Comparing methods of racial and ethnic disparities measurement across different settings of mental healthcare. Health Services Research, 45(3). 825-847.

Thomas, S.B. (2001). The color line: Race matters in the elimination of health disparities. American Journal of Public Health, 91(7). 1046-1048.

Wang, J., Mullins, C.D., Brown, L.M., Shih, Y-C. T., Dagogo-Jack, S., Hong, S.H.,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Health and Illness Racism's Role.  (2010, November 20).  Retrieved August 1, 2021, from

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