If an African-American patient comes into a doctor’s office, does he get similar care compared with a Caucasian patient?
“No,” says the Institute of Medicine. The present research “demonstrates significant variation in the rates of medical procedures by race, even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable. This research indicates that U.S. racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to receive even routine medical procedures and experience a lower quality of health services.”
For example, minorities are less likely to receive appropriate cardiac medications or undergo cardiac bypass surgery as well as kidney dialysis or transplants. In contrast, they are more likely to receive less desirable procedures such as lower limb amputations for diabetes.
In a nation where we value racial equality and justice why and how do these gross inequalities exit? This is the topic of a panel discussion at a conference this Friday October 14 at Christian Brother’s University and Saturday October 15 at Rhodes College.
Every year the Gandhian Nonviolence Conference (www.gandhiinstitute.org) gathers over 300-500 academics and activists from across the nation to reflect on the status of violence in our world. Violence occurs in many forms such as terrorism, women’s inequality, impulsive anger, or racial disparity in medical care.
Lessons from nonviolence offer solutions. A nonviolent approach encourages us to seek the underling root causes of violence such as poverty, prejudice, oppression, and discrimination, then to resolve these inequalities through awareness, respect and understanding.
The Institute of Medicine offers solutions for reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care. First, increase general awareness about disparities among the public, health care providers, insurance companies, and policy-makers. Second, promote guidelines so that care is equal and consistent for all patients. Third, develop more minority health care providers, since they are more likely to work in medically underserved communities.
Just as a civil rights movement transformed our nation in the 1960s, a health rights movement is necessary to transform our misaligned health care system in America.