Our Healthcare System Is Failing Black People

Published: July 23, 2020Updated: February 8, 2021

As the world continues to pull back the curtain on systemic racism, we’d be remiss to not address how this impacts healthcare access. From gaps in health insurance coverage to lack of services, racial discrimination and disparity are widespread in today’s healthcare system. And we find it deeply upsetting.

Here are a few examples of how systemic racism is impacting the Black community:

  • Experiences of racial discrimination is a chronic stressor that has a wear and tear impact on the body, putting the Black community at risk for accelerated aging, and serious physical and mental health problems, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression.

  • A Journal of Clinical Oncology study showed that regardless of risk level, Black women are less likely than white women to undergo genetic testing meant to detect early signs of diseases, cancer, and illnesses, largely because physicians fail to recommend them.

  • Black women are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. Even amongst women of higher income or education levels, significant differences in maternal mortality still exist.

  • Black neighborhoods are 67% more likely to lack a local primary care physician, even though Black communities have higher health risks due to segregation, which manifests in lower-quality public safety, transportation services, garbage collection, public schools, restaurants, and other community amenities.

  • There is the mistaken belief in the medical community that Black individuals have a higher pain threshold, therefore Black patients are 22% less likely than white patients to receive pain medications.

Why are these disparities occurring?

This is because the current healthcare system is failing the Black community as a result of deeply ingrained systemic racism. There are many complexities and intricacies to explain this inequity, but here are a couple of reasons:

  • Black individuals are more likely to experience financial and physical barriers to accessing quality care, as they are more likely to be uninsured. 

  • High rates of poor health outcomes in the Black community are a result of the physical and mental toll of constant racial discrimination.

  • Healthcare providers have implicit biases that cause them to view and treat Black patients differently (and more poorly) from non-Black patients.

None of this is acceptable. As a country we need to be doing better and more for our Black community. We've built our service with the goal of increasing access to underserved individuals, but there's so much more to do. Here are some organizations that are working hard to support healthcare equality for Black women:

If you want more information on topics such as this, we are constantly sharing resources and information on our Instagram. Follow us here, or @simplehealth, for anything and everything from sex education to feel-good memes.

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