BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: #healthdisparities

How America is Failing Black Women During Pregnancy and Childbirth

In the United States, about 700 women die each year due to pregnancy related causes and about 65,000 women come close to death. The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate compared to developed nations. Maternal mortality is when a person dies during pregnancy, at delivery or shortly after childbirth. While this is a shocking statistic, an even more surprising one is that in the United States, Black women are three to four times more likely to die because of a pregnancy-related issue than white women. This disproportionate ratio is one of the reasons that the United States Mortality rate is much higher than other developed countries. But, the death of many of these Black mothers are preventable. 

In the past, healthcare professionals and researchers have attributed this high rate of mortality due to pre existing conditions because Black women are more likely to be obese or hypertensive. More recently, in the scientific community there has been an agreement that the blame should not be placed on the women but instead on systemic racism. This is not only in healthcare but also because of other social inequities such as access to food, good schools, jobs, and safe drinking water, just to name a few. When understanding health inequities it is important to look at these social determinants of health, as well as access to prenatal care. While the blame is put on a number of complex issues, unconscious bias of healthcare providers play an important role. This is shown clearly through Serena Williams childbirth complications. Williams is at the top of her field, and a well respected woman. Despite being such an affluent figure, she was dismissed when she told nurses that her breath was shortening during childbirth. The nurses wasted crucial time even though they were informed of Williams’ medical history. Serena William’s story does not stand alone, well off Black women are more likely to die than white women due to pregnancy related issues. In general, one in four Black women report feeling disrespected by medical professionals. There are so many stories, such as, a new mother whose doctors didn’t believe her when she said she was having a heart attack until she had a second one, a mother whose obesity was blamed when she had trouble breathing when in the end it was her heart failing.

Recognizing the issue is only part of it, the next step is to implement policy and change to ensure that Black mothers do not die due to systemic racism and bias in the healthcare system. One way to potentially decrease the high rates in mortality is to recognize race as a factor during prenatal screenings, this way pre-existing conditions and health complications are less likely to be blamed. Hospitals should implement training on unconscious bias because if healthcare providers are not aware of the issue, they may not notice their own bias. There should also be a push for more standardized healthcare, an increased awareness around maternal health and ensuring that mothers make decisions about their own care. Realistically, there is not one answer to this issue as it goes beyond the healthcare system and instead is just one outcome of systemic racism in the United States. So, what do you think is the best solution to decrease the disproportion mortalities in maternal medicine?

The Devastating Impact of Covid-19 on Indigenous People

For years, Indigenous people have struggled to receive access to resources and proper care. From education to jobs the Indigenous community has been neglected time and time again. Looked over in all categories.  Though there are many topics that need to be addressed regarding the Indigenous community,  I will be focusing on the large disparity in health care that Indigenous Americans and Alaska Natives receive compared to other races. I will also look at how Covid – 19 has hurt this system to the even greater extremes and what you can do to help. 

Health care in Indigenous American communities has never been at the forefront of many important decisions, and as a result has suffered tremendous neglect over the years. One of the main providers of health and medical care in Indigenous communities is Indian Health Services or the IHS. It is given to over 2 million individuals who are descendants of the 567 federally recognized tribes. It’s supposed to provide “healthy communities and quality health care systems” but it seems to be doing just the opposite. It has very little funds from the government  and with less money, less services they can provide. The large disparity in health care for Indigenous groups compared to other populations is growing by the day. Indian Americans and Alaska Natives die at much higher rates than other races and are significantly more likely to die from easily treatable diseases. There is a higher infant mortality rate about 1.5 times higher than white people. They also have a lower life expectancy, and are expected to die 4 -5 years earlier than other races in America. This inequity can be a result of the many underlying issues in the Indian American community. Some of these include poverty, lack of health insurance, less education, language barrier, no access to transportation, less healthy food options, discrimination and many more factors. They have a dwindling amount of medical doctors located on many reservations which gives even less access to proper care. Many hospitals and medical facilities are also very far away from where many people live so an emergency situation can be detrimental.  An example of this is when a man named Cody Pedersen was stabbed in the neck and the ambulance took almost two hours to arrive. He survived, but this is only one success story out of many tragic ones. 

With all the problems Indigenous communities faced before Covid – 19. The addition of the virus impacted the community immensely. According to the CDC American Indians and Alaska Natives are 5.3 times more likely to be hospitalized due to Covid. They are also 2.4 times more likely to die due to Covid-19. This is a big difference even when compared with other minorities groups. There is also a lot of data that has yet to be collected, inconsistent data, and misinterpreted data that could be an even better insight into the real struggles of the indigenous community. However, no one is making an effort to collect it. Health isn’t even the biggest problem the indigenous community faces due to Covid. The virus devastated them economically, when many were already facing poverty. Many tribal businesses were forced to close and still cant open. Many of the money earned on reservations goes back to support the community. With businesses shutting down and people having to look for work outside the reservations less profits can be contributed to the community, increasing reliance on outside organizations. This makes it really important for people who fund the native community to keep funding even after all this subsides for them to rebuild their communities. 

It has been far too long since indigenous people looked over and neglected in our country. Although they are a small percentage of our country they are still lives that need the same services as everyone else. It all starts with awareness. Once you become aware and start to care that this is happening to others it makes a big difference. The more people care, the more change that can be enacted. Native societies need to be just as visible as other races. We need to recognize Native people, help Native people, and protect Native people.

Here are some more ways to help:

Partnership with Native Americans

Indian Health and Human Services

How to Support Indigenous Communities

 

 

The Truth Behind Health Disparities: COVID-19 Edition

As the coronavirus continues, there have been some notable statistics that highlight pre-existing health disparities for many. In an article written by CDC, the terms “health disparities” and “racial and ethnic groups” are connected to one another. In this blog post, I’m going to dig deeper into the “social determinants of health” and discuss correlations between certain factors of these determinants.

It’s been noticed even before COVID-19 that certain racial and ethnic groups have an increased risk of getting sick and dying. Now with the global pandemic, the factors that cause this increased risk need to be addressed before more thousands of hundreds of people contract the virus.

We first need to understand what discrimination means, as it plays a huge role in the spread of COVID-19 in these groups. Discrimination comes in many shapes and forms including but not limited to these factors: health care, housing, education, and occupation/ finance. When particular racial and ethnic groups are discriminated against for all of the above, they are placed in social and economic situations that are more prone to falling at the hands of COVID-19. Inequities in access to quality education for some racial and ethnic groups can lead to lower high school completion and issues with college entrance. This may limit future job options and lead to lower-paying or less stable jobs. People may not be able to afford the proper healthcare (this can be due to income or even direct discrimination from healthcare companies). This leads to segregated spread due to geography and demographics. When these ethnic and racial groups are discriminated against when it comes to housing, this creates a lot more issues than realized. In this article, there are comparative data studies that highlight certain parts of many states that are known to be predominantly a certain ethnic or racial group. Having compared neighboring towns of majority race and ethnicity, these areas have been proven to have higher deaths from COVID-19. This is because these ethnic or racial groups may have not had access to the proper health care or live in crowded conditions that make it more challenging to follow prevention strategies. It may also be the case where some ethnic families live with their elders as part of their culture. These dangerous conditions of living together as a grouped town will increase the infection rate and spread of COVID. As seen, all of these factors are connected not only to racial and ethnic groups but also to each other. These factors all add up to the thousands of deaths that fall to COVID-19.

To conclude, this leaves us with the question of what can we do? Of course, as we learned from some of our peers’ COVID-19 portfolio, there are traditional and effective COVID-19 precautions that include social distancing, sanitizing, protection (masks), etc. As science grows, we need to learn to be less prejudiced against those around us. This issue of health disparity of racial and ethnic minorities has been occurring for years. COVID-19 did not create this health disparity, it only emphasized how much needs to be actually changed. This article, which I stumbled upon, really went into depth more on the pre-existing health disparities that we have chosen to ignore. COVID-19 has now opened the eyes of many to see that these health disparities range from the differences in racial and ethnic Breast Cancer treatment, maternal care, and even dental care, which most have incorrectly deemed insignificant in the world of health.

We must change. We can find ways to support everyone, even when physically apart. We need to stop the discrimination that has occurred and start empowering and encouraging the community and the people within to protect themselves and their loved ones. We can care for those who become sick, keep kids healthy, and learn how to better cope with stress. Of course, community- and faith-based organizations, employers, healthcare systems and providers, public health agencies, policymakers have their work cut out for them as well. The key is the promotion of fair access to healthcare now. Much can be done to ensure that people have the resources to maintain and manage their physical and mental health. Suggestions include making information on COVID-19 more accessible, more affordable testing, and medical health care. We need to start paying more attention to fix our society and our health disparities to prevent the spread of COVID before more lives are lost.

 

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