Racial Bias and Ethnic Disparities in Health Services

Racial Bias and Ethnic Disparities in Health Services

For centuries, women of color have experienced a prevailing and insidious disparity in their reproductive healthcare. Social and structural factors of minorities have been negatively impacted in the flowing ways: fewer neighborhood health services are available, less insurance coverage, decreased access to educational and economic attainment, and racial bias and stereotyping at the practitioner level. This phenomenon of a racial-ethnic gap has been deemed a human rights issue, as declared by The Center for Reproductive Rights.

One such disparity are barriers to proper access to contraceptives. Women of color are less likely to afford birth control medication due to the high cost of adequate health insurance. Disparities in maternal mortality have been a prevalent and well-documented opposition, due to clinician-level biases and racism, has contributed to delayed or absent care leading to death. Statistics have revealed that African American, Native American, and Native Alaskan women were 2.5 to 3.3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women. Disparities surrounding HIV prevention and treatment management for Black and Latina women have also not been properly addressed. 75 percent of new HIV diagnosis are within these demographics. The following recommendations need to be taken to decrease the percentages above: addressing disproportionate poverty, emphasizing equal access to educational and career opportunities, increased reproductive healthcare opportunities, and increased access to biomedical prevention treatment. Data shows pre-exposure prophylaxis has not been afforded to Black women as an option for HIV prevention as opposed to White women and men.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is an example of a social-structural-policy–level intervention that was supposed to help establish more health care access to previously uninsured and underinsured individuals. Due to federal and state rulings, continuously diminishing portions of the ACA, inefficient reproductive healthcare access and services, an all-encompassing national health insurance reform strategy needs to break down barriers and fortify access.

There are systematic and positive change solutions that would ensure more opportunity for women of color. Entailing the deterioration of social and structural barricades for underprivileged minority women would increase access to adequate reproductive health services without clinical racial bias. Women of color need to be heard with empathy and compassion to ensure care and treatment management will be appropriate. Change requires a more racial and ethnically diverse workforce, full clinical training pertaining to anti-racism education, and increased utilization of doulas and other patient advocates in maternal care.

By Victoria Fontenot – Behavior Therapist with Better Living Center for Behavioral Health

Sutton, M. Y., Anachebe, N. F., Lee, R., & Skanes, H. (2021). Racial and ethnic disparities in reproductive health services and Outcomes, 2020. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 137(2), 225-233.