Today, bleak racial disparities in health outcomes continue to persist in America. Recent research shows that 13.8% of Black Americans and 10% of Hispanics reported having fair or poor health as compared to 8.3% of white Americans. Black women are also three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women, and the Black infant mortality rate is twice the rate for white infants. Black Americans are also more likely to die from cancer and heart disease than whites and are at greater risk for the onset of diabetes.
The Center for American Progress cites that “These disparities are not a result of individual or group behavior but decades of systematic inequality in American economic, housing, and health care systems.” While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) helped to ensure health care coverage for 2.8 million Black Americans, communities of color are still more likely to be uninsured than their white counterparts. As of 2018, the uninsured rates for Blacks and Hispanics were 9.7 and 17.8, respectively, while it was just 5.4 percent among whites.
Recent research shows that over a third of the Hispanic and Black populations are enrolled in Medicaid or public health insurance—36.3% and 41.2%, respectively. Because Black and Brown Americans tend to be poorer than other demographic groups on average, public health insurance programs such as Medicaid are vital to ensure affordable health care and healthier outcomes. Yet key southern states, where over half of Black Americans live, have opted not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, putting African Americans and other people of color to fall within a coverage gap—meaning they earn too much to qualify for the traditional Medicaid program, yet not enough to be eligible for premium tax credits under marketplace plans.
For those that have employer sponsored or private health insurance, the average family spends $8,200 (or 11% of family income) per year on health care premiums, and related expenses such as office visit copays, prescription drugs, and surprise or out of plan medical bills. For Black Americans, the average annual cost for health care premiums is almost 20% of the average household income—a major cost to bear when considering income inequality and other economic challenges. So for families of color, while coverage expansions under the ACA have hastened the progress toward universal coverage, the continued high cost of many coverage options means that access to affordable health care is still a challenge. Study after study surmises that black people are sicker and die earlier than other racial groups. Why? Many factors contribute to the increased morbidity and mortality among Black people. It is undeniable, though, that one of those factors is the care that they receive from their providers.
The undeniable fact in the 21st century is that Black people simply are not receiving the same quality of health care that their white counterparts receive, and this second-rate health care is shortening their lives. The not-for-profit, non-governmental organization called National Academy of Medicine (NAM)—released a report documenting that the poverty in which black people disproportionately live cannot account for the fact that black people are sicker and have shorter life spans than their white counterparts. NAM found that “racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than white people—even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable.” By “lower-quality health care,” NAM meant the concrete, inferior care that physicians give their black patients. NAM reported that minority persons are less likely than white persons to be given appropriate cardiac care, to receive kidney dialysis or transplants, and to receive the best treatments for stroke, cancer, or AIDS. It concluded by describing an “uncomfortable reality”: “some people in the United States were more likely to die from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes simply because of their race or ethnicity, not just because they lack access to health care.”
Children who grow up in a society where their health, education and well being are considered valuable and important have higher achievement in school and more opportunities in life. It is more than a social construct. It's more than a political football. It is a business and economic imperative.
Vice President of US Chamber of Commerce
Despite spending more than any other country on healthcare, the United States ranks below other advanced countries in health and life expectancy, carrying an economic burden estimated at $93 Billion in excess medical costs per year. In light of these studies, some scholars have concluded that racial disparities in health can be explained by looking to the individuals who are choosing not to prescribe the most effective, health- and life-conserving treatments to racial minorities. The argument is that if people of color are sicker and are dying at younger ages than white people, this may be because physicians have racial biases. Their biases cause them to give their patients of color inferior health care and, in so doing, contribute to higher rates of morbidity and mortality. Corporations can support existing groups’ efforts to provide communities in need with accessible care and health education services, reaching not only health professionals, but also individuals and families in minority community groups' local and national with the goal of driving attention, empathy, and action to this "live or death" issue.
Take On Race is committed to bringing together member companies to transparently spotlight and urgently address inequities in the access and administration of healthcare and health outcomes in America. Our large-scale collaborative efforts will focus on improving health outcomes for historically underserved communities through direct partnership with health professionals, oversight groups, and funding accessible care and health education services. Through the Take on Race initiative, we unite the vast experiences and resources of corporate diversity and inclusion leaders and others invested in this space through our commitment to sustainable collaboration and scale. Together, we can create vastly better health outcomes and quality of life for all Americans.
The Multicultural Center of Excellence (MCoE) is a Pfizer Corporate Affairs initiative focused on helping to improve health equity across ethnic minorities and other medically underserved populations. MCoE aims to improve minorities’ access to medications, increase diversity in clinical trials, spread disease awareness, and share resources available to minority communities. The MCoE team builds partnerships with key multicultural groups in the United States–including patient advocacy organizations, healthcare provider associations, community groups, and legislative caucuses–in an effort to reduce health disparities in multicultural communities.