Race, Healthcare, and Health Disparities: A Critical Review and Recommendations for Advancing Health Equity

Wendy L. Macias-Konstantopoulos, Kimberly A. Collins, Rosemarie Diaz, Herbert C. Duber, Courtney D. Edwards, Antony P. Hsu, Megan L. Ranney, Ralph J. Riviello, Zachary S. Wettstein, Carolyn J. Sachs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

An overwhelming body of evidence points to an inextricable link between race and health disparities in the United States. Although race is best understood as a social construct, its role in health outcomes has historically been attributed to increasingly debunked theories of underlying biological and genetic differences across races. Recently, growing calls for health equity and social justice have raised awareness of the impact of implicit bias and structural racism on social determinants of health, healthcare quality, and ultimately, health outcomes. This more nuanced recognition of the role of race in health disparities has, in turn, facilitated introspective racial disparities research, root cause analyses, and changes in practice within the medical community. Examining the complex interplay between race, social determinants of health, and health outcomes allows systems of health to create mechanisms for checks and balances that mitigate unfair and avoidable health inequalities. As one of the specialties most intertwined with social medicine, emergency medicine (EM) is ideally positioned to address racism in medicine, develop health equity metrics, monitor disparities in clinical performance data, identify research gaps, implement processes and policies to eliminate racial health inequities, and promote anti-racist ideals as advocates for structural change. In this critical review our aim was to (a) provide a synopsis of racial disparities across a broad scope of clinical pathology interests addressed in emergency departments—communicable diseases, non-communicable conditions, and injuries—and (b) through a race-conscious analysis, develop EM practice recommendations for advancing a culture of equity with the potential for measurable impact on healthcare quality and health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)906-918
Number of pages13
JournalWestern Journal of Emergency Medicine
Volume24
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Keywords

  • health disparities
  • implicit bias
  • social determinants of health
  • structural racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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