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Webinar Makes Connection Between Racism and Health

Webinar Makes Connection Between Racism and Health

As we discussed earlier this month, the American Public Health Association (APHA) is currently in the middle of a four-part series of webinars, The Impact of Racism on the Health and Well-Being of the Nation. Today, APHA’s third webinar, Unequal Treatment: Disparities in Access, Quality and Care, covered a variety of topics, including inequities in access to care for low-income communities and communities of color, the role of implicit biases in health disparities, and the impact of historical trauma on health.

The event featured an impressive lineup of speakers, including Brian Smedley from the National Collaborative for Health Equity, Michelle van Ryn from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, and Linda Rae Murray from the University of Illinois School of Public Health. The presentations showed that while we have come a long way in regards to expanding coverage, access issues prevent many in low-income areas and communities of color from getting the best possible care. Also, racism and other biases result in additional barriers to care for these populations.

At CPEHN, we see racism as one of the leading social determinants of health and in order to achieve health equity it will be necessary to eliminate the barriers racism poses as communities of color strive to live healthy lives. We appreciate APHA’s efforts to further this important discussion with events like today’s webinar.

Here are some highlights from the event, which was recorded and will be available to stream on APHA’s website.

Smedley pointed to the disparities that remain despite the coverage expansions of the Affordable Care Act, particularly in low-income communities.

He also showed some maps that illustrated how people in low-income areas, who often have worse health outcomes, are also in areas with limited provider availability. He also talked about improving the diversity and cultural competency of the health care workforce.

All of this is a feature of what he referred to as “medical apartheid,” a tiered system of health care where some sectors of society have access to more convenient, higher quality services than large portions of the population.

Van Ryn, a leading expert on implicit bias, focused on the challenge of reducing disparities and how efforts to increase equity need to consider human nature and the root causes of racism.

Murray discussed the impact of historical trauma and racism on health today. She began by sharing this great cartoon that shows that the social determinants of health (i.e. racism, poverty, etc.) are often overlooked when developing strategies to improve health outcomes.

She then detailed the historical injustices faced by communities of color in America, making sure to address the unique traumas experienced by Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.

She also discussed income inequality and how the recession of the past decade did not impact all communities equally. She showed how low-income individuals, particularly African Americans and Latinos, had a disproportionate share of foreclosures and other negative impacts.

Murray closed with this flow chart detailing how strategies to address the systemic inequities experienced by communities of color and low-income communities can only be addressed with a far-reaching approach that considers all of the structural determinants that lead to inequalities.

You can follow #APHAwebinar on Twitter for more reaction to today’s webinar. The fourth and final webinar of the series, Racism: The Silent Partner in High School Dropout and Health Disparities, will be on September 1st at 11 am PT. You can register for that event on the APHA website.

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