More on Racial Disparity in the USA

March 21, 2007 at 12:26 pm (Michael's Posts)

Below is an article I found in the New York Times Health Section a couple weeks ago. My reading of it points to the deep and hidden racism in America. If doctors are singling out Black and Latino patients for alcohol abuse, it’s a sign of their internal biases about the habits of their patients. Especially in light of the statement that the article makes about the lack of evidence to support such an assumption. This is most disturbing in light of the fact that minority patients are screened less for biological illnesses.

One of the issues I take with the researcher’s stance is with their statement that the increased alcohol screening rate could be due to theincome level of the patients being screened. Of all the patients I see at County, very few of them drink much. Granted, many are diabetic and many are older. However, the poor folks I see who are in their late 40s and mid 50s and not diabetic are often not drinkers. To top it off, the few really serious alcoholics I’ve seen have been white. Now, my patient exposure has not been enormous, but I’ve been working in this clinic for 6 months and I’ve seen enough to start making a few assertions.

Like I said before, by working on racism and pointing it out and watching ourselves and our colleagues, we can raise the quality of health in our country.

Disparities: Singling Out Minorities for Alcohol Counseling

By ERIC NAGOURNEY
Published: March 6, 2007

At last researchers can point to an area of medicine in which African-American and Hispanic patients get more attention than white ones do.

Whether that is a good thing is another matter. The care in question is counseling from doctors about alcohol abuse. And given that there is no evidence that blacks and Hispanics drink more than whites, the researchers ask why they seem to be singled out for the advice.

“Our results raise questions about whether physicians apply preventive screening practices systematically, and whether they inaccurately tie race to problem drinking,” wrote the author of the study, Dr. Kenneth J. Mukamal of Harvard. The report appears in the March issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

As a general rule, numerous studies have found, minority patients are less well served than whites by the medical system. They receive less screening, for instance, for cancer and other illnesses.

The new study drew on information gathered in a federal survey of more than 15,000 people about their health. Among other questions, those surveyed were asked how much they drank and if they had been counseled by a doctor about alcohol.

The study found that blacks and Hispanics were about twice as likely as whites to report having been counseled about alcohol. But when it came to counseling about diet, the differences largely disappeared.

Part of the explanation, the study said, may lie in the fact that minorities tend to see doctors whose practices focus on low-income populations. So it might be less a matter of an individual doctor treating black and white patients differently than how minority communities over all are served.

In any case, the study says, given how effective alcohol counseling has been found to be, the answer is not to give less of it to minority patients but to give more of it to all patients.

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