Working in the medical industry I constantly have to keep up on new information as well as update my skill set. So while looking into a few disorders that come up from time to time with different patients of mine, I stumbled across an article written Sid Kirchheimer for WebMd way back in 2003. The article titled “Racism is harmful to health” got little if any play, neither in the media nor on the health care circuits. Now something this provocative should have gotten beau coup air time on your national nightly news, but that would be assuming that someone cared. In all actuality this flies by under the radar because “hey, it doesn’t affect my family or I have never ‘seen’ any racism.” Since this is the mindset of the majority why would this be big news or even just an interesting side story?
The article talks about how Blacks who we know for a fact suffer at the hands of racism are more likely to have hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease which is linked to that hypertension and other stress related ailments. Now this part is no surprise since we all know that twice as many Blacks suffer from these well known illnesses, the interesting parts is how it is linked to racism. Two different studies which were done by a British group and by Harvard shows that normally blood pressure and stress go down at night but for Blacks who have suffered from racism it remains high thus leading to heart and other problems. According to Camara P. Jones, MD, MPH, PhD, research director of Social Determinants of Health for the CDC and a leading specialist on the health impact of racism “There’s a kind of stress, like you’re gunning your cardiovascular engine constantly if you’re black that results from dealing with people who are underestimating you, limiting your options,” and “By the time you get into the 25-44 year-old group, you start to see changes. We have evidence that in white folks, blood pressure is dropping at night, but not in black people.”
This information should be in the hands of doctors who can in turn educate and try to do preventative medicine instead of it becoming chronic problems. But unfortunately doctors are another cause of the problem of stress induced from racism, according to a recent report by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) numerous studies show that racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive lower-quality healthcare than whites — even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable. But doctors would never admit to showing bias nor that there was any truth to the discrepancies in health care on a racial basis. Even though it is widely known that minorities receive bad to just downright sub standard care from hospitals, clinics and doctors.
Even after these studies get published and the news took the information and gave it willingly to the public you would still have a majority of the people claiming that racism doesn’t exist and both these medical findings is just another attempt at excuses for Blacks period. The stress caused by racism can be comparable to that of post traumatic stress syndrome. So maybe we can call what Blacks suffer as post traumatic racism syndrome since according to surveys Camara P. Jones conducted, she finds that whites rarely think about their race in the course of a day. “But 22% of blacks surveyed said they constantly think about their race, and 50% said they think of race at least once a day — they are constantly reminded of their blackness,” she says.” That has a profound effect on health.” But we know that the outcome would undoubtedly be the same, low or sub standard care and doctors who deny, deny, deny plus a public Blacks as well as Whites who also deny any claims that racism is more damaging than just lost jobs, housing and status.