Influence of Race in Healthcare Access
Race is defined as the broadest distinction made among humans, which groups people together according to their appearance peculiarities. There is a biological basis for distinguishing the human species in terms of races, yet it has been used to describe people since the 18th century. The author asks if the race of a person should be used to determine the recommendation and treatment given by a physician (Barr 229). The answer to this question is yes, since some diseases seem to affect particular groups of people more than others. Also, the difference observed among races, the skin color, is caused by an environmental and biological phenomenon.
An example is given, of a white researcher going to work in the tropics near the equator. The intensity of the ultraviolet rays of the sun is higher in the tropics than in the Mediterranean climate. The researcher is at a higher risk of developing skin cancer, as his skin has much less melanin to protect him from these rays. The residents of these countries have an abundance of melanin in their skins making them immune to the effects of these rays. A physician might advise him on the basis of his race to apply sunscreen for protection against the sun, but will not recommend the same. This is a medical decision that is made on the basis of the race of the patient, and it is valid (Barr 233).
Some medications appear to be more effective in certain races than others. An example is Travatan, used in the treatment of glaucoma. Travatan is found to be more in persons of African descent. Scientific probe revealed that this might have been caused by the high levels of pigment found in the eyes of black persons. The pigment enhanced the action of mediation, making it more effective in black persons. It also had the effect of increasing the intensity of melanin pigment in the eyes and around them, resulting in a darkening effect and changing the color of the eyes from other colors to dark brown. This might not be a problem for black persons as the change would not be apparent. It however, may be an issue for white persons (Barr 238). The physicians may therefore recommend this to black persons without reservations. When prescribing to white patients, he/she may have to point out to them the possible side effects of the drug.
It is scientifically proven that women from the Jewish ethnic group have a higher chance of getting breast cancer than women from other ethnic groups. Even though prevalence of breast cancer among black women is lower than that of white women, they have a greater risk of dying from the disease, as it is noticed only after it has spread from the breasts to the rest of the body. The reason for this is that most black women lack the financial means to get early detection of the disease (Barr 249). This establishes the key difference among the races that is responsible for the disparity in access to medical care: social economic status. Most people in the minority group are blacks and Hispanics. The have a lower economic power compared to whites and this makes them differ in the quality of health care that they can afford. It influences the nutrition available to them, the sanitation of their places of residence and their psychological disposition.
The higher levels of hypertension experienced by black men compared to whites may in my opinion, be a result of stress associated with not being empowered economically. The ancestors of blacks have had a long history of oppression that had them live under constant duress, and that might have been passed on to their offspring. The satisfaction levels of patients depends on the trust they place on the physicians, and having the diversity of the medical practitioners mirroring that of the general population might help a lot in increasing the satisfaction levels of the minority groups.
Barr, Donald A. Health disparities in the United States. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. Print.