The murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis should not have happened, but it did. Many protests have gathered all over the world to condemn the systemic racism that has been ingrained in our society for decades. All the issues have surrounded police brutality, but let’s face it, the healthcare systems are not perfect either.
In America, your neighborhood or zip code will say more about the quality of life one will get to live than their cholesterol levels. Black communities across the globe bear a higher burden of diseases than their white counterpart. This means they are more likely sufferers of NCDs such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and mental health[i].
Racial disparities in healthcare are caused by a combination of systemic racism embedded in socioeconomic factors relating to the healthcare system. What makes this worse is that our healthcare system knew this for a long time.
Black people have been turned away at emergency rooms, neglected for time-sensitive lifesaving procedures, brushed off by doctors during assessments, and often have their pain and experience minimized in the healthcare setting[ii],[iii].
Racism is not just a social injustice issue, it is also a health issue that violates human rights and the rights to good health. Police brutality needs to end, and so does the silent killings of the black community from the neglects of healthcare.
On a global scale, developed countries have taken advantage of the resources in Sub-Saharan Africa over decades of colonization. However, the countries of the African continent continue to face inequalities in global health governance[iv].
Medical professionals, governing bodies, and advisory boards of global health institutions have ignored to adequately represent the needs and voices of Africans in health systems and global health infrastructure [v]. Neglect and lack of representation for the human right to good health for Africans are ingrained in the history of racism. We see this happening during HIV and Ebola epidemics[vi]; now, it is even more evident in our current pandemic.
Black lives matter, and black health also matters; we need to use this movement to realize the racism embedded in public and global health and demand change.
Full Disclaimer: I am of Asian descent living in North America. I was conflicted about when or how I should join the BLM conversation as I am unsure how my voice will be reflected in the current political climate, but I felt it would have been more shameful of me to stay silent. Having an uncomfortable conversation is how we change, learn, and grow. We need to advocate for our healthcare system across the globe to do better.
My colleague Dara Oloyede will be sharing her voice and perspective of the BLM movement in the next few days.
[i] CDC. (2005). Health Disparities Experienced by Black or African Americans --- United States. Atlanta: CDC: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
[ii] Franks, P., Muennig, P., Lubetkin, E., & Ja, H. (2006). The Burden of Disease Associated With Being African-American in the United States and the Contribution of Socio-Economic Status. Soc Sci Med, 62(10):2469-78.
[ii]Hoffman, K., Trawalter, S., Axt, J., & Normal Oliver, M. (2016). Racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 13(16): 4296–4301.
[iv] Oni, T., Yudkin, J. S., Fonn, S., Adongo, P., Kaseje, M., Ajuwon, A., ... & London, L. (2019). Global public health starts at home: upstream approaches to global health training. The Lancet Global Health, 7(3), e301-e302.
[v] Homes, C., Lake, A., & Schneidman, W. (2020, April 29). It’s Time to Help Africa Fight the Virus. Retrieved from FP: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/29/africa-coronavirus-pandemic-united-states-europe/
[vi] Ruger, J., & Kim, H. (2006). Global health inequalities: an international comparison. J Epidemiol Community Health, 60(11): 928–936.