Health Team

Doctor: Coronavirus, systematic racism hitting people of color harder

Posted July 15, 2020 8:26 p.m. EDT
Updated July 15, 2020 8:54 p.m. EDT

— The relationship between social injustice and health inequities is being studied as people of color in the U.S. experience disproportionate high rates of sickness and death due to COVID-19.

Despite making up 22% of North Carolina’s population, African-Americans account for 30% of confirmed COVID-19 cases. However, experts says this concern goes far beyond the pandemic.

Not only is the coronavirus pandemic killing people of color at an alarming rate, some experts say systematic racism is, too.

“That affects your health because you don’t have equal resources as the majority of the population to be able to access health and well being,” said Dr. Michelle Albert with the Association of Black Cardiologists.

Albert said Black men and women have lower life expectancy than any other race. That’s largely because of cardiovascular disease, which is often driven by social factors.

For Jay Dwayne Garnett, this is alarming but, not a surprise. He said he’s experienced his own health issues in the past.

“There was a time where the stress was so high, I gained 65 pounds in one year and I went on blood pressure medication and high cholesterol medication," Garnett said.

Garnett said he was an executive and felt like he had to work twice as hard as others because of his race.

“The natural issues that one faces on a day-to-day basis, now compound that with racism," Garnett said. "Sometimes we can prove it and sometimes we can’t but we can feel it.

Albert said there are things everyone can do now to work toward a better future:

  • Advocating for policies at the state and federal level
  • Addressing quality healthcare
  • Diversity in medicine
  • Addressing structural racism

“There isn’t a health treatment for racism, we can talk about counseling all day long, but where does a person go to get treatment for racism?” Garnett, said. “Racism takes on many shapes and forms and, unfortunately, black people have to deal with all of them.,”

Gov. Roy Cooper recently signed an executive order to address the social, economic and health disparities minorities are experiencing. Part of that provides health services to the uninsured during the current public health emergency.

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