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Nation's medical leaders working to address structural racism in health care

Nation's medical leaders working to address racism in health care
Posted at 4:21 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-30 16:22:09-04

The U.S. Surgeon General is talking about structural racism, saying it's partly why the coronavirus has disproportionately affected Black and Latino Americans.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams plans to focus on two initiatives soon, high blood pressure and maternal mortality, which is women dying from pregnancy or childbirth issues.

The office plans to put out science-based summaries designed to create urgent action on both issues that disproportionately affect communities of color.

Earlier this month, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation declared racism a public health crisis.

“Racism is a public health issue,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “I’ve been on record saying it’s more dangerous than COVID-19, simply because we're going to find a vaccine for COVID-19.”

They are currently working with the National Institutes of Health on providing data down to the county level of the burden of disease by race.

Mokdad used life expectancy as an example. He says within a county there are high disparities, sometimes 15 years less based on where minorities or lower income people live.

“Provide data in order to tell people this is what we see. These are the problems, keeping in mind you cannot change what you cannot measure,” said Mokdad.

The CDC is also now requiring states to collect data about race, ethnicity, gender, and zip code for coronavirus cases.

Racism in healthcare affects everyone, socially and economically.

“What people don’t realize is we are paying for it one way or another and right now when you look at the United States, we spend more money on health than every other country,” said Mokdad.

Mokdad and other health professionals we talked to all pointed to universal health care as another obvious solution to addressing structural racism.