Black adults were more likely than patients from other racial and ethnic groups to report discrimination against them by a healthcare provider both prior to and during the pandemic.
An Urban Institute report released Monday found 10.6% of Black patients reported being discriminated against or being unfairly judged based on their race, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation, or health condition by clinical staff sometime over the previous 12 months. By comparison, 3.6% of white adults and 4.5% of Latino individuals reported experiencing discrimination during a healthcare visit.
The report analyzed answers from more than 4,000 adults between the ages 18 and 64 surveyed from Sept. 11 and Sept. 28, of 2020.
Low-income Black adults and Black women had the highest proportions of individuals who reported discrimination during an encounter with healthcare staff. More than 14% of poor Black adults reported discrimination compared to 6% of white and Latino patients with low incomes.
Explicit and implicit bias in the healthcare setting, as well as hospital policies that have discriminatory outcomes, have driven inequities in healthcare access, care quality, health outcomes and now vaccine coverage within communities of color for decades. Patients who experience discrimination or bias are more likely to delay and even forego care.
A notable example of how discrimination has impacted health is wellbeing among Black women, 13% of whom reported discrimination by a healthcare provider.
Recently released figures by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the maternal mortality rate among Black women in 2019 was more than two times higher than White women and more than triple the rate of Hispanic women. A contributing factor for that disparity that has gained more attention in recent years are reports from Black women that their symptoms are often ignored by their clinicians.
Black women also die from breast cancer more often than White women despite having relatively similar incidence rates, with some suggesting that mammogram screening guidelines do not take into consideration evidence that Black women are at higher risk of developing the disease at earlier ages.
Report co-author Dulce Gonzalez, research associate at the Urban Institute, said it is difficult to determine what role discrimination played in the disproportionate impact COVID-19 had on communities of color. The CDC listed discrimination as a factor in the disproportionate mortality rate facing people of color.
“Its something that’s going to be really important to continue to monitor especially as we deal with the ramifications on health equity and disparities among people of color,” Gonzalez said.