The Medical Community Has Failed People of Color in the Past: These Doctors Want to Build Trust from Healthline
October 19, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has swept through the United States, highlighting racial inequities in healthcare.
The numbers of infections and deaths related to COVID-19 are far higher among people of color, especially Black Americans, than among white Americans.
Black Americans make up 13 percent of the nation’s population but account for an estimated one-quarter of deaths due to the new coronavirus.
Despite these higher risks, Black Americans are less likely to sign up for experimental medical treatments or potential vaccines.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 32 percent of Black adults said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if one were available. In contrast, 52 percent of white adults said they would.
The reluctance is rooted in centuries of mistrust in a healthcare industry that has a history of experimenting on Black people, sometimes without their knowledge or consent, and a history of persistent healthcare disparities.
To help bridge this gap and champion the interests of Black people and other marginalized groups during the pandemic, the National Medical Association, the nation’s leading organization of Black physicians, set up an expert task force to vet regulators’ decisions about COVID-19 drugs and vaccines.
The task force will also vet government recommendations for tackling the pandemic, which continues to disproportionately affect Black people and other communities of color.
The 30,000-member association’s action comes in the wake of recent concerns about the politicization of some of the nation’s leading public health and scientific organizations tasked with vetting the approval of new drugs or vaccines, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“We are more interested in efficacy,” said Dr. Bret Hughes, a professor of ophthalmology at Wayne State University and longtime member of the National Medical Association.
He added that the process for vetting vaccines and other kinds of medications is very regimented and specific, and has two goals: safety first and then effectiveness.
But “there are political groups that are willing to bypass those procedures and say there is a vaccine in order to quell fears. In fact, you can take a vaccine and develop other conditions because there’s more in the vaccine no one is aware of until you get it.”
In many ways, the National Medical Association is doing what it has done since it was founded in 1895 as an organization to advocate for the interests of Black physicians and patients during an era when the American Medical Association barred membership to Black people.
Over the years, it has been involved in a host of social justice and civil rights causes. In the early 1900s, it was a champion of national health insurance. During the civil rights movement, it teamed up with the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights group, on several causes.
The National Medical Association has become more inclusive over its 125 years of existence and now advocates for other communities of color and the disadvantaged.
But even with many of the changes over the century, progress toward racial equity in healthcare has been tepid.
“Fast-forward to 2020, we still have a lot of inequity in healthcare and people’s access to healthcare and how people are treated,” Hughes said.
Continue reading, “The Medical Community Has Failed People of Color in the Past: These Doctors Want to Build Trust” from Healthline.