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Unequal Opportunities In The "Land Of Opportunities"

Written by: Erendira Zazueta, Coalition Coordinator


The United States is considered the place to come to if you want a better life and better opportunities. This is why we have had thousands of immigrants come to the United States from their home countries. While the United States can be a safer place for people to live in, there can still be a lot of inequalities. There are opportunities for everyone to have a life here, but the quality of life is different for everyone, and the quality of healthcare is not the same.


Throughout history there have been inequalities in healthcare. An example would be the Tuskegee Syphilis Study where in the 1930’s they took a group of black men in Macon County Alabama who were positive for Syphilis and told them they were going to treat their “bad blood”. They were giving them “medicine” to treat them but were never actually giving them anything to treat the syphilis, they just left them untreated to see what the long term effects of untreated syphilis are. That’s just one piece of history that shows how minorities don’t receive the same healthcare or even have access to the same healthcare as white Americans.



In this current day there are many laws and regulations to protect people from being used for studies without their consent, but they don’t all have the same access to health care. Patients experience racism or even prejudice. Not only that but their health care is low quality where they can only go to certain clinics to see a doctor and those clinics have long wait times with a lot of patients in one day so the time to speak with the doctor is very limited as well. Most clinics and hospitals have access to a translator through the phone but even then, they will give a low quality of care to people who don’t speak English because of the language barrier.


Blacks, Hispanics, and some Asians when compared to White people, have lower levels of health insurance coverage and they are also less likely to have private insurance. Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to use emergency rooms at hospitals as their form of healthcare which can cause longer wait times for the people who are there because of an actual emergency. As Black and Hispanic people get older, they are still not on private insurance so they get Medicare which does not cover things like prescription drugs, dental care, and long-term care. It’s not always just race specific, even White people who are lower-income deal with the same issues.



Because of these inequalities, people of color and lower-income white people don’t go to the doctor or the dentist and therefore have a lower quality of life. They are more likely to die at a younger age, pregnant women are more likely to give birth to a stillborn baby, and more likely to have substance use disorder. When it comes to substance abuse, Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to complete addiction treatment largely due to socioeconomic factors. More than 1/3 of approximately 2 million people entering publicly funded substance abuse treatment in the United States do not complete the treatment. Some of the reasons they don’t finish are because of issues with transportation, having someone who can babysit their kids, or they can’t even pay the affordable price.



Even in the year 2024 we still have health disparities even though we’ve been working on it for years. Laws have changed to protect people from purposely being hurt or used for science, but people are still dying earlier than they should because of the lack of access to good quality healthcare. While it is a work in progress, we will continue to work towards having equity in healthcare and giving everybody in the country good opportunities. Prevention is a good place to start so people have the knowledge on how to live a healthy life before needing to go see a doctor.


Thank you for checking out this week’s blog! Bee sure to check in next week too 😊 


Sources

1.      Center For Disease Control (2022). The Untreated Syphilis Study at Tuskegee Timeline. https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm

2.      National Research Council (US) Panel on Race, Ethnicity, and Health in Later Life; Bulatao RA, Anderson NB, editors. Understanding Racial and Ethnic Differences in Health in Late Life: A Research Agenda. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2004. 10, Health Care. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK24693/

3.      Saloner B, Lê Cook B. Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to complete addiction treatment, largely due to socioeconomic factors. Health Aff (Millwood). 2013 Jan;32(1):135-45. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0983. PMID: 23297281; PMCID: PMC3570982.


Image Sources

1.      CNN (2010). Studies show 'dark chapter' of medical research. https://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/10/01/guatemala.syphilis.tuskegee/index.html

2.      Youtube (2015). Room Tone Waiting Room Sound FX. https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=_DdikZtAFMU

3.      Greater Greater Washington (2020). Events: How does the public bus system move Black people?. https://ggwash.org/view/78699/events_8_10

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