Health Disparities: A Reality for Millions of Americans

Maggie Grainger
July 9, 2020
4 min read

“Racism is a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on how one looks (which is what we call “race”), which unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.” — Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, Ph.D.; Radcliffe Fellow, Harvard University, past-president APHA

Risk factors + Lack of access to care = Health Disparities

Health disparities are a reality for millions of people of color in the United States every single day. Systemic racism — racism that is embedded as a normal practice within society or an organization — plays a large part in these disparities and must be eradicated. Racism prevents many of the people who call this country home the opportunity to live their healthiest lives.

Systematic racism is a driving force of how social determinants of health (like housing, education, violence, and employment) are distributed. When the systems we live in distribute these determinants unequally amongst race populations they become risk factors in non-white populations. Simply put, our current social and economic systems are set up so that social determinants of health makes it easier for white Americans to live healthy lives than BIPOC.

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There are more than 43 million Black people in the United States, yet in addition to suffering inequities in social determinants of health, many also do not have access to simple healthcare needs.

Nearly 1 in 4 Black adults report not having a usual source of care which is defined as having a personal doctor or health care provider.

1 in 5 Black adults reported a lack of care due to cost and admit there was a time in the past year when they avoided seeking care because of a lack of funds.

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While COVID-19 has shined a spotlight on global health disparities, recent events in the United States have exposed the world to the reality of police violence against Black Americans. Police violence against Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), especially Black Americans, contributes to inequities in social determinants of health by generating stress, perpetuating racial discrimination, and creating unsafe neighborhoods.

Research shows that racially marginalized communities are disproportionately subject to police force, and there is a correlation between policing and adverse health outcomes. For example, an independent analysis found that Black males are three times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than their white male counterparts.

Top this off with a significant lack of minority representation in healthcare and you can see how this cycle can repeat itself over and over again. In the 2010 U.S. Census, Black Americans accounted for nearly 12.3 percent of the U.S population, Indigenous people account for 1.3%, and Latinos represented 18.3 percent, yet this diversity is not reflected in the healthcare profession.

  • Black healthcare professionals in medicine make up only 4.4% of the total workforce.
  • Racial and ethnic minority patients who have a choice are more likely to select health care professionals of their own racial or ethnic background.
  • Racial and ethnic minority patients are generally more satisfied with their care and are more likely to report receiving higher-quality care when treated by a health professional of their own racial or ethnic background.

At Carbon Health we’ve made it our mission to make world-class healthcare accessible to everyone. As providers, we know, now more than ever, it’s our actions that will speak louder than our words.

We are committed to increasing access to care in BIPOC communities in these ways.

Carbon Health Virtual Care

Patients have access to primary, urgent, pediatric, and mental health care right at their fingertips. Now available in 16 states (and growing), Virtual Care allows providers to meet patients where they through an accessible and diverse provider network.

Carbon Health’s COVID-19 Testing Efforts

We’ve partnered with Alameda County, the City of Oakland, and West Oakland Health Clinic to further expand no-cost access to COVID-19 testing. Our mobile testing unit has also made it possible for us to go into underserved communities who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and administer tests. We’ve also partnered with the city/county of LA to offer no-cost walk up testing outside of our clinic.

Carbon Health Stands in Solidarity with Black Communities

  • The entire Carbon Health team is committed to providing resources for protesting safely and providing care if things should turn violent.
  • Clinicians and staffers stood in solidarity with Black communities at marches throughout the country.
  • Carbon Health headquarters is actively finding solutions to eliminate healthcare disparities using clinical expertise and technology background.
  • Scholarship and internship program plans are in the works for black men and women in healthcare/technology fields.

At times it might seem like an uphill battle, but consistent effort is key to dismantling systemic racism in healthcare and beyond. Together we can create change and help pave the way for a brighter, healthier future for everyone.

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Maggie Grainger

Maggie Grainger is the Brand Copywriter at Carbon Health. She enjoys writing about diverse healthcare issues and helping people live their healthiest lives.


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