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TodayRacism Is Bad for Your Health

African Americans wearing masks to protect themselves and their community

The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated systemic inequalities impacting African American communities, including access to healthcare and economic disparities.

Poverty, mass incarceration, limited healthcare access, and comorbidities including heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory illnesses disproportionally impact African Americans. Studies have drawn a direct link between racist policies like housing segregation, lack of public transportation, limited economic opportunities, environmental racism and little access to healthy food, to incidences of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death.

Racism within the healthcare system exacerbates inequalities. A 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that medical students believed Black people feel less pain than white people and many other racist inaccuracies. The study also observed that those espousing these false beliefs were more likely to give inaccurate medical advice to Black patients. The negative impact has occasionally resulted in the death of Black patients and contributes to mistrust in the the healthcare system.

African American physicians and medical professionals have long combatted the persistence of medical racism while remaining at the forefront of medical advancement. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a research fellow and scientific lead at the National Institutes of Health, led a team of scientists that developed the Moderna vaccine, which has been proven effective.