CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - It’s no secret that COVID-19 has shined a light on disparities in health care and treatment. The issue now is what to do about it.
A group of Black doctors participated in a webinar panel hosted by MJH Life Sciences entitled ‘Color and COVID-19: The Virus’ Disproportionate Impact.’
First, they showed the numbers and higher death rates for people of color from COVID-19. They shared how this last year will impact generations and identified some of the causes, including structural racism.
“Despite health care providers’ greatest intention, they may be taking complaints of White people more seriously than complaints of people of color,” said Dr. Ebony Hilton, an associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care physician at UVA Health.
“Many of us on this forum have our own stories of knowing how health care is supposed to be delivered, but not receiving that standard as a Black person,” said UVA Health ICU Director Dr. Taison Bell.
Hilton and Bell’s messages were shared by another member of the webinar, Dr. Nwamaka Eneanya, who works at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Structural racism has caused some inequities in housing, food insecurity, crowded situations, different types of occupations that track along racial lines,” she said while discussing social determinants of health.
Bell says the “key” to turning the tide of a pandemic that has killed nearly 380,000 Americans to date is a vaccine. Distrust among minority communities has been documented, but Hilton says it’s not the only factor.
“There’s a pharmacy desert as much as there is a food desert in Black and Brown communities,” she said.
These doctors say fixing these problems takes a community effort.
“Whether you’re in the medical field, whether you’re a pastor, whether you’re a teacher,” Hilton said, “everyone’s minds are going to have to come together to figure out: ‘how do we heal this nation for generations moving forward?’”
“Within your own community, when it comes to trying to push for change, you have that power to mobilize and really change the narrative,” Bell said.
They say to move away from structural racism involves forward-thinking about policies, like how the vaccine is distributed, and who receives them when.