Massive Racial Equality Gaps in Healthcare, Medical Experts Say
Institutionalized racism negatively impacts physical and mental health, and medical communities around the world have a great deal of work ahead to correct those imbalances, experts told a special edition of QF’s Doha Debates #DearWorldLive program at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2020.
The three guests said the global response to the coronavirus pandemic has once again shown that Blacks and minorities often receive medical treatment that is inferior to healthcare provided to white majorities.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Botswana-born regional director for Africa, said: “COVID-19 has not only highlighted and worsened inequities, but it’s going to worsen them [more] in the future.”
She urged world leaders to help rectify the inequalities by ensuring those most at risk in the global south are among the first to receive the coronavirus vaccine. “We hope very much that when these countries prioritize who's going to get the vaccine first, they will genuinely look at those most vulnerable.”
Dr. Kamran Abbasi, executive editor of the British Medical Journal, called for urgent action to address the racial imbalances in healthcare. “Every health system is stressed, and at times like that, inequalities become worse, and unfortunately it’s made much worse in this pandemic because much of the people exposed trying to save lives are from minority communities.”
He called on government and healthcare leaders to take corrective action. “It’s a failure of leadership. It’s clear we know minorities are adversely affected. Governments have that data, health services have that data, but they are not responding to the data. They are not taking the immediate action needed to address healthcare’s racial inequalities.”
Doreen Moraa Moracha, a Kenyan native, said that the coronavirus pandemic is alarmingly reminiscent of the inequalities experienced by Blacks and minorities with HIV. “HIV currently has the issue of stigma and discrimination, and we have seen it come out with the COVID-19 pandemic. You feel like you’re not an acceptable part of society because you might have COVID.”
Moracha, who founded the HIV advocacy initiative I Am a Beautiful Story, added: “I feel that Africa may once again be left behind, or we may be brought something that does not work on us or work well.”
Active audience member Khadija Owusu, a medical student in the UK who founded the nonprofit Melanin Medics, agreed that much work must be done to address racial inequalities in healthcare. “This is going to be a long road at gaining some sort of normalcy. Things need to happen at the governmental level but also in our healthcare systems.” She called for greater diversity in leadership to address the challenges. “Representation is one of the key issues that exists in medicine today.”
More than 400,000 people around the world watched the live program, with the top viewing nations being Brazil, Turkey, the US, Argentina, and the Philippines.
The program and all Doha Debates videos can be seen on-demand on Doha Debates’ Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube channels, and at DohaDebates.com/DearWorldLive.
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