Time to Understand and Eliminate the Destructive Racial Disparities that Plague Our Health Care System
Jan 16, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by Gaurdia Banister
Gaurdia Elane Banister, RN, PhD, is executive director of the Institute for Patient Care at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellows program. This post is part of the "Health Care in 2013" series.
Historically, it seems that we are a country that takes a step forward only to take two steps back. Consider that May will mark 59 years since our schools were desegregated, yet it required the efforts of the National Guard to allow the “Little Rock Nine” entry into Central High School three years after this declaration. In July we will mark 49 years since President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one-month after which the bodies of three civil rights workers were found in shallow grave. And, of course, the 20th of this month will mark four years since we inaugurated our first African-American President of the United States, though our health care system is still woefully deficient in providing care to minority groups.
The Affordable Care Act, in many ways, addresses the grave disparities that exist in health care due to race and ethnicity. Extending coverage to the nearly 46 million uninsured Americans—more than half of whom are minorities—will address a serious need, but this act alone will not begin to resolve the larger issue at hand.