"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1966.
Even though doctors pledge to treat all patients equally, not all patients receive the same level of care. Most doctors aren't blatantly racist, and they are devoted to treating all patients fairly. However, they work within a system that is simply unfair. All stakeholders, including health care professionals, education professionals, the community, lawmakers, scientists, and everyday people, need to eliminate inequities in health care.
Medical decisions for different patients are also influenced by health care disparity. For instance, several white medical students mistakenly think that African-Americans have a higher pain tolerance than whites. This is a serious bias that could lead to black individuals being prescribed less pain medication than others. This disparity in treatment is unjust, but it may be mitigated in a community with the help of allies. Besides providing equal diagnosis and treatment to all patients, for which we need allyship. It promotes more inclusive and dynamic organizations, reducing overall stress in the healthcare system. The following are some critical factors to consider when addressing healthcare inequity.
- Healthcare Staff
Organizations in the healthcare industry are powerful entities. As a result, healthcare providers are in a unique position to combat healthcare disparity. They generally have substantial political power and are significant employers in local communities, in addition to delivering lifesaving care. As employers, healthcare organizations must look forward to assisting, protect, and invest in people of color, particularly black and indigenous employees. Also, the system should encourage healthcare professionals to maintain an active listening mode with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other People Of Color) staff and integrate support without putting the responsibility of anti-racism activities on black workers. Significant obstacles to eradicating racial and ethnic disparities in health care are a lack of awareness and its influence on society.
According to a previous national survey, the majority of people in the United States were unaware of health disparities between black people and white people. Pharmacists in healthcare systems should lead initiatives to raise public awareness of health injustices among healthcare practitioners, administrators, and the general public. Healthcare professionals can raise health disparity awareness by motivating their healthcare organizations to consider eliminating gaps in health care as a fundamental component of their work. In addition, health care providers can assist in the development of in-house and community-based initiatives that foster cultural awareness and understanding of the significance of diversity.
2. Effective Communication
As per the Code of Ethics for Doctors, “A doctor communicates with patients in terms that are easy to understand.” According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) guidelines, pharmacists should understand the culture of the patient, especially health and disease beliefs, attitudes, and practices, and modify messages to fit patient's language abilities using translation services or cultural guides. Patients must be communicated within a culturally and linguistically relevant manner. Although Spanish is the primary language of many cultures, simply translating instructional materials into Spanish may not provide the cultural context necessary for effective treatment.
Healthcare professionals in healthcare systems should use their knowledge of medication to assist their institutions and community members in developing culturally and linguistically appropriate public education programs. These programs may highlight health concerns that are widespread in the hospital's racial and ethnic minority communities, as well as explain preventive measures and health care services that are available to them. Professionals in the healthcare field must also be aware that ethnic and cultural disparities can hinder communication among doctors. Pharmacists in healthcare systems should take measures to ensure that communication is effective and reflects the Code of Ethics for Pharmacists.
3. Diverse Workforce
Diversity is essential in life, culture, and healthcare. It's so vital that people's lives depend on it. Consider the thousands of people who visit hospitals and clinics every day in need of assistance. They are a melting pot of humanity, with individuals of many races, religions, genders, and ages. A healthcare team should be as diverse as the patients they serve, if not more so. This ensures that no matter who enters through the door, someone on staff can relate with them, engage with them, and better fulfill their needs. According to research, enhanced racial and ethnic diversity between healthcare professionals has been linked to increased access to care for racial and ethnic minority patients, improved patient-clinician communication, and improved educational opportunities for healthcare students.
Furthermore, promoting diversity in healthcare can lead to cultural competency, which is the ability of healthcare organizations to provide services that match their patients' specific social and cultural needs, hence reducing healthcare disparities. In other words, the more accurately a patient is represented and understood, the more effectively they can be treated.
4. Cultural Competency
Personal values, beliefs, and behaviors regarding health and well-being are determined by many factors, including Color, ethnicity, language, nationality, religion, sexuality, social position, physical and mental ability, sexual preference, and profession. In health care, cultural competence can be described as the ability of practitioners and organizations to comprehend and incorporate these variables into the structure of care. Culturally competent health care services aim to provide the greatest level of treatment to all patients, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, cultural differences, Language ability, or literacy. Promoting cultural competency among healthcare providers and institutions would help to improve health care quality and eliminate healthcare injustice for all patients. A culturally competent health care practitioner is:
- Aware of cultural differences and their effect on behaviors and attitudes.
- Is sensitive, compassionate, and nonjudgmental while interacting with people from cultures other than one's own.
- Flexible and competent in adapting to a variety of cultural situations.
The news right now is dominated by racial health disparities. People of color and underserved communities face long-standing health and healthcare inequities. Health disparities are caused by underlying racism-based social and economic inequality. Addressing this issue is not only important from the perspective of social justice but also crucial for improving the overall health and economic prosperity of the country.