Books about Racism in Healthcare

I recently read a blog post about racism in healthcare, which inspired me to be proactive and educate myself about the disparities in medicine as a result of racism, personal biases and inequalities. My main source of information is usually books and I came across some which I thought I’d share with you. It’s such an important topic and reading these books is just a start in the long journey to educating myself about the inequalities in healthcare. Although many of these books are focused on the American healthcare system, these problems are just as important in other countries! 

The Health Gap – Michael Marmot

‘What makes these health inequalities unjust is that evidence from round the world shows we know what to do to make them smaller. This new evidence is compelling. It has the potential to change radically the way we think about health, and indeed society.’

This book tackles problems regarding discrimination in healthcare, especially those that defy usual explanations. There are often conventional approaches to improving such inequalities, but many of these methods are not enough. It is vital that we create conditions that allow equal access to healthcare for everyone! 

Medical Apartheid – Harriet A. Washington

‘From the era of slavery to the present day, the first full history of black America’s shocking mistreatment as unwilling and unwitting experimental subjects at the hands of the medical establishment.’

Medical Apartheid provides a history of medical experimentation on African Americans and the effects that persist until today. Much of this experimentation was conducted without the knowledge of the participants, such as by performing autopsies without consent from the deceased or their family. This book aims to explain the deep distrust felt by many black Americans towards the whole medical profession.

Black Man In a White Coat – Damon Tweedy

‘One doctor’s passionate and profound memoir of his experience grappling with race, bias, and the unique health problems of black Americans’.

This memoir presents the healthcare inequalities experienced by black Americans first-hand from the point of view of a doctor. He notes that this was something evident from the first lecture he attended in medical school!

Just Medicine: A Cure For Racial Inequality in American Health Care

‘Over 84,000 black and brown lives are needlessly lost each year due to health disparities, the unfair, unjust, and avoidable differences between the quality and quantity of health care provided to Americans who are members of racial and ethnic minorities and care provided to whites. Health disparities have remained stubbornly entrenched in the American health care system […]’

In Just Medicine, Dayna Bowen Matthew discusses the root causes of racial and ethnic biases held by physicians, healthcare management and also, from patients. Much of this bias is implicit and dictates how healthcare is distributed.

Black & Blue – John Hoberman

‘Black and Blue Doctors have always absorbed the racial stereotypes and folkloric beliefs about racial differences that permeate the general population. This title provides a description of how American doctors think about racial differences and how this kind of thinking affects the treatment of their black patients.’

This book was the first of its kind, the first to describe how American doctors think about racial differences and how this impacts the treatment of ethnic minority patients. Rather than only considering past medical abuses and cases of inequality, Black and Blue addresses the thoughts dictating behaviours of physicians that lead to such cases.

Racism in Healthcare: Alive and Well: The Greatest Barrier to Reform – Marie Edwige Seneque

‘African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans represent 27 percent of the United States population, yet they constitute less than 11 percent of nurses and 8 percent of physicians.’

Racism in healthcare is a longstanding problem and continues to impact recruitment of healthcare providers, with ethnic minorities contributing a fraction of the overall workforce in America. This book unpacks the reasons behind this, including physician attitude, lack of cultural awareness and the belief that racism is a taboo topic.  

Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care – Institute of Medicine 

‘Racial and ethnic disparities in health care are known to reflect access to care and other issues that arise from differing socioeconomic conditions. There is, however, increasing evidence that even after such differences are accounted for, race and ethnicity remain significant predictors of the quality of health care received.’

This book is written by a panel of experts from the Institute of Medicine looking at the evidence regarding racial and ethnic inequalities, looking closely at the individual experiences of patients facing unjust treatment. Unequal Treatment  gives recommendations for improvements in financing of medical provision, availability of translation services and other areas. 

Seeing Patients: A Surgeon’s Story of Race and Medical Bias – Augustus A. White III

‘This book uses the story of one of the authors, Gus White, as a way to talk about unconscious biases and their consequences to the medical profession and beyond.’ 

The author of this book has been described as a ‘trailblazing physician, gifted surgeon and freedom fighter’ Jonathan Walton of Harvard University. This memoir draws on the experiences of a surgeon as he attempts to understand the unconscious biases he sees on an everyday basis and how we can do better!

Whether you decide to read one of these books or more than one, it’s vital that we (especially anyone else in the healthcare profession) educate ourselves and take steps to making a change! 

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