Systemic biases and racial inequalities in health care continue a complex legacy of racism in the United States
Following the spark of social justice movements this summer, Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU) delved into the effects of systemic biases and racial inequalities in health care and the effects on racial minority access and usage of complementary and integrative health care (CIH).
Dr. Michele Maiers, executive director of Research and Innovation, and Dr. Chuck Sawyer, special assistant to the president at NWHSU, developed a policy paper to address issues of racial inequalities in integrative health care, outlining ways in which CIH can support diverse communities and recognizes the substantial work that still needs to be done within the CIH community.
“A complex legacy of racism in the United States continues to create health inequities among people of color,” the paper states. “Systemic biases in education, employment, housing, health care, access to food, accumulation of wealth, and the legal system contribute to poorer health among communities of color. These social determinants of health are driving factors behind the “weathering hypothesis,” where chronic exposure to discrimination and disadvantage lead to accelerated decline in health outcomes, particularly among Black individuals.”
Racial inequities in health care
The paper points out that Black professionals represent only 1.6% of chiropractors, 0.8% of acupuncturists, and 12% of massage therapists. For reference, 5% of physicians and 6.2% of nurses identify as Black. The
most recent census data reports 13.4% of the U.S. population identify as Black.
Black Mistrust of the Healthcare Community, and Unique Potential for CIH Providers to Address Health Disparities are other topics addressed.
A call to action
A Call to Action to confronting racism in health care includes:
- Build trust
- Community Driven CIH Programs
- Serve Communities of Color
- Improve cultural competence
- Elevate Professionals of Color
- Increase CIH workforce diversity
- Inclusive Educational Environments
- Dedicated curriculum
To demonstrate commitment to this issue, Northwestern Health Sciences University publicly commits to the following:
• Respond to current needs of local Black communities in crisis by listening to lived experiences, establishing enduring partnerships with community leaders, and expanding health and wellness through integrative care.
• Undertake curricular mapping to ensure equity, diversity and inclusion competencies are reflected across programs and throughout the curricula.
• Review student recruitment strategies and staffing policies to cultivate an equitable, inclusive and diverse campus community.
• Support individuals from under-represented groups through diversity scholarships, to enable careers in integrative care and increase the presence of integrative care in communities in need.
• Create a digital library of storytelling to educate students, faculty, and clinicians about diverse local populations, and their relationship to integrative care.
• Develop systems to measure our progress with these commitments through metrics on our University dashboard.
“Health equity is built through a relentless daily commitment to community building, cross-cultural collaboration, and ensuring access to integrative care for every person and family,” the paper states.
To read the paper in full click here.