Monday, September 2, 2013

Barack Obama Will Always Have Better Healthcare Than I: and it has nothing to do with 'RACE'

Experts from all different fields of interest, all over the world have been trying for years to find the reason health disparities exist. Often ‘race’ is identified as the cause of differences in quality of healthcare/customer service, reasoning behind an illness, and even access to medical attention. But the problem with blaming skin color/race as the source of health disparities is that race is not the current day creator of health inequalities; socioeconomics are.  

When trusted professionals throw around the word ‘race’ to explain a disease, a new medical treatment, an event, or public health goal tons of human beings are instantly categorized and labeled; those who have it and those who don’t, those who can have it and those who can’t. This kind of approach is dangerous because all people of one race are not the same people; they are unique individuals that shouldn’t be informed or categorized so carelessly by their skin color. Lorusso and Boniolo (2007) point out in their article that “Thalassaemias and sickle cell anaemia are particularly associated with blacks because of the fact that most black people come from a malaria-prone region. African-Americans who do not come from malaria-prone regions do not have these diseases.” (p. 164).  It is so easy to cluster all African-Americans into one little group, but as seen from Lorusso and Boniolo, using race as a category for humans is a slippery slope approach that is too simplistic for our reality.     

Interestingly, “most medical geneticists and pharmacogeneticists concede that skin color and other race-identifying features poorly correlate with the genetic variations that shape the risk of disease and the treatment response.” (As cited in Lorusso and Boniolo, 2007, p. 165). 
Yes, who your parents are will affect your future. Perhaps you are more prone to a certain sickness because of your genes, but it is not your parents skin color that will allow you to receive vaccines, a diploma and education about safe sex and nutrition, a genetic treatment, a car to drive to the doctors, an elective surgery, or any food at all; their income and social web of family and friends is what will determine the quality of your health. Barack Obama will always have better quality and access to healthcare than I, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he is black and I’m white. 
Categorizing humans by race in the field of medicine and or public health not only keeps racism alive in our world and improperly address health issues, but also camouflages and prevents the termination of the true issue in 2013 behind health inequality; health and wealth go hand in hand.
Lorusso, Ludovica. Boniolo, Giovanni. (2007). Clustering Humans: On Biological Boundries. Padova, Italy: European School of Molecular Medicine.