Racial Bias in Healthcare Administration
By: Shruti A.
Throughout history there have been common misconceptions regarding African American identity and how a racial difference can also cause prejudice to a difference in other roles or functions of the body. These misconceptions have often been fueled by racial biases regarding superiority or just in order to emphasize difference for the pure form of not being what is understood as regular in a particular society. An example of this greatly being present in healthcare and healthcare administration, so far as to publish unsupported studies to provide incorrect information purely for proving a racist point correctly. This race based difference was first greatly brought to light by the Tuskegee Syphilis study regarding the ill treatment of African American studies due to being conveyed incorrect information and being denied proper healthcare for induced syphilis for the study, conducted by the CDC itself. This study was a great realization factor in the 80s however racial prejudice in healthcare is still greatly present today and is continuously being misunderstood or spread, specifically on the topic of African American pain tolerance. A study in the late 90s and early 2000s concluded, with biased and inaccurate parameters, that African Americans have a higher pain tolerance as compared to other racial groups, evidently making them require less pain medication in medical procedures and when injured. The study itself was greatly flawed due to a bad sample group and measurement methods however many individuals focused on this idea and continued to research and back up the continuously proved false conclusion. I believe that African Americans do not have a lower pain tolerance as compared to any other racial group due to the flawed evidence provided in any supporting study and previous negative racial attitudes in healthcare beliefs.
Many studies that support the difference in pain tolerance and associated administration have continuously been proven as inconsistent based on study methods, experimental design, and general parameters of the studies, fueling my reason to believe that they are inaccurate. One such example is in a recent study published where it was detailed that the study group was primarily selected around highly populated city locations, like Baltimore and Gainesville along with “in and around academic health centers”(Kim). The study group selection itself is not representative of the entire United States population in order to draw such broad conclusions due to different individuals experiencing different understandings of pain regionally. Additionally, there were mediated health risks before selection, however none of them detailed similar underlying health conditions and age group equality between racial groups to draw a purely race based conclusion regarding pain tolerance. The study additionally concluded that their findings are consistent with racial differences in pain, experimentally speaking, however fail to acknowledge the difference in sample size of between the racial groups and even defined that African Americans should understand that it “might be beneficial in decreasing clinical pain”(Kim) due to implication of chronic pain, without any concrete evidence displaying any correlation in the benefit of decreasing pain. Such drawn conclusions can impact how doctors and healthcare administrators address their patients’ issues and by conveying information that is not backed up by generalized, proper sampled proof there is obvious need to reform this evolving prejudice. Due to the format of the study and unsupported conclusion drawn in the study, backed up with previous precedence of pain tolerance studies aiming to further increase racial gaps, pain tolerance is not due to race, but is presented as such due to misunderstood, prejudiced research.
Oftentimes the pain tolerance inaccuracy in research is a result of biased researches who have been systematically believing people of different color are highly different in other aspects as well, causing inaccurate characterization leading to this negative racial impact from believing a regular stereotype. When the first study regarding this racial difference was introduced, many individuals did not question the validity of the study due to the regular understanding of African Americans being primarily different or more “hard core”(Trawalter) purely due to race. Regardless of evidence, historical precedence of bias and white oppression on the African American community in America caused fundamental prejudices in researchers, even if it was not the aim to harm the community, inherent questioning of differences and a gap in understanding different communities caused a spread of inaccurate information. That inaccurate information continued to influence physicians and students into believing it in a scientific standpoint, even though it was a highly ineffective study. The fuel of pure racism towards different people also added more discrepancy between what is a myth and what is a true medical fact regarding race and healthcare. The domino effect started with the implied racism in the healthcare system into students purely understanding race as a determining factor of pain medication administration, purely due to continued prejudice. Even if racist action were not the direct action of the first study, most of it was a result of small preconceptions regarding people of the African American community, turning into an excuse for pain medication mistreatment. There has been proven racial differences in diseases like sickle cell anemia, which people of African descent are more susceptible to, but there has been equal administration of healthcare in that matter for all races, which was not shown in regards to the pain medication even before it was proven inaccurate. There needs to be a greater “shift in education” for future and current healthcare providers in order to make them more aware of such small discrepancies causing many African American people to stop receiving sufficient healthcare and more of a voice regarding how such inaccurate studies fuel persistent racism in America(Trawalter).
Pain tolerance is only one factor of prejudice against African Americans and many other racial groups in the healthcare system. Small stereotypes of misunderstandings can lead to generational racial assumptions that are inaccurate and greatly hurtful to large communities. They can fuel racist practices and serve themselves as additional bias a community has to face due to misconceptions. It is important to be understanding of the inherent racial implications of your research and your words in order to prevent a butterfly effect of racial practices that risk lives occurring over decades. Racism is greatly prevalent in what is meant to be fact, especially regarding how greatly people of color, specifically African Americans, have a harder time with the healthcare system purely due to the basis of prejudice from race it is built upon.
“Black Americans Are Systematically Under-Treated for Pain. Why? | Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy | University of Virginia.” Batten University of Virginia News, 3 June 2020, batten.virginia.edu/about/news/black-americans-are-systematically-under-treated-pain-why.
Kim, Hee Jun. “Racial/Ethnic Differences in Experimental Pain Sensitivity and Associated Factors — Cardiovascular Responsiveness and Psychological Status.” PLOS ONE, 18 Apr. 2019, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0215534.