Social prejudice is the unfair and inequitable distribution of welfare, responsibilities and consequences in a community. In medicine, social prejudice is referred to as health disparity. It involves a scenario where disadvantaged or marginalized groups experience heightened problems when accessing healthcare. As a result, these groups experience an increased presence and severity of certain diseases. These inequalities are often avoidable, but the disadvantaged groups lack the social, political and economic power to ensure they have the same access to healthcare as other groups. In America, these groups include Hispanics, African Americans, Latinos, the elderly and the poor in society. Such groups are often stereotyped, neglected and underfunded when accessing healthcare. This paper examines a case of stereotyping and health inequality scenario in Miami, USA.
Miami-Dade County is a leader in health in the country. Miami has 28 hospitals and more than 32,000 licensed health professionals. Thousands of residents take part in county health programs that include mental health care, homeless shelter, emergency assistance, veteran services, and substance abuse and treatment. Some of its hospitals, like the Jackson Memorial Hospital, are considered among the best in the nation. Despite the adequacy of facilities, the county has refused to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid. What this means is that the elderly and those without insurance have little access to Medicaid. Such is the case for immigrant farm workers and racial minorities who lack funding to obtain medical care.
Racial and ethnic minorities are fast rising in America, yet health data points to significant evidence of poorer clinical outcomes in these communities with respect to death and preventable diseases. Hispanics, for example, account for 15.5% of theAmericanpopulation, and the number is expected to grow to 25% by 2050 (Rafael, 2010). In Miami, 65% of inhabitants are predominantly Latino. Hispanics, despite their significant social, economic, cultural and political contributions are at a very high risk of not having access to healthcare compared to other Americans and immigrants. Hispanic adults and elders face diverse medical conditions that include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, oral health problems, and infectious illnesses such as tuberculosis and HIV.Type 2 diabetes (T2D), for example, is twice as prevalent in Hispanics as in other populations. Discrimination in accessing healthcare for Hispanics is attributed to their non-citizenship status that makes many ineligible for some programs and the fear of stigma and deportation. Low English proficiency is yet another barrier (David Song, 2010).
Stereotyping in healthcare provision is common. Some communities or people are either viewed as being poor and unable to pay, lacking insurance or viewed as exaggerating their illness. Language barriers increase the stigma accompanying this stereotyping. A case in point is whereby a Latino mother arrived at a healthcare facility with a sick child. She could not speak in fluent English but was shouting hystericallyat the hospital receptionist. I was young then, and we were in the hospital with my mother. The young mother continued shouting, but the receptionist was busy on the phone. When the receptionist finished talking on the phone, she motionedfor herto take a seat among the rest of the people waiting to be attended. The receptionist neither asked for her details nor checked the severity of the child’s illness. The woman took a seat next to my mother and started sobbing.At that time, an affluent looking family entered the reception area, and the receptionist kindly took their details and guided them towards the private wing.
Mymomtook the child from its mother’s arms and on noticing how pale it looked, she took it to the receptionist and started shouting that the child was terribly sick. A nurse who was passing by came to inquire what was wrong. My mother explained and the nurse began examining the child. She then shouted frantically to the receptionist to call a doctor as the child was critically ill. In a minute, the doctor had arrived and the child, together with its mother, were taken for checkup. The receptionist had viewed the Latino woman as unable to pay and thus had neglected aiding her.
Old people especially are often not in a position to demand equitable healthcare and may face neglect(Jacobsen, 2014). When still new at the hospice where I work, I experienced a case of a nurse neglecting to care for a Hispanic elder, and instead focusing on a white woman. The elder man needed to use the loo, but the nurse opted instead to help the woman take her food. Icould see that the man was in distress, and so I offered to help him. The nurse told me to stop bothering with poor old people whose families could barely afford to tip when they came visiting. That statement angered me, but I still helped the old man, who was very grateful. I later learned that some nurses neglected caring for patients whose relatives did not give them money on occasion. The management did not know of it, but some relatives bribed the nurses to care specially for some patients. In this case, the elder did not have the power to complain about the ill-treatment and the family was not wealthy enough to afford special care for him.
Stereotyping and discrimination are rife in the nation’s healthcare system. Immigrants and marginalized groups are accordedinadequate healthcare, which often results in an exacerbation of their illness and sometimes death. The poor who cannot afford medical care often end up not getting healthcare. Corruption has also permeated the medical system with those who can afford to bribe practitioners for better treatment end up reaping all the benefits and in the end have better health. The poor, marginalized and those without influence end up facing discrimination. The result is that many Americans are dying and ailing from preventable diseases. These inequalities are often avoidable, and a lot should be done to remedy the situation and improve healthcare provision in the country.
David Song, J. G. (2010, November 1). Healthcare Access Among Hispanic Immigrants: Is anybody Listening? PubMed, 34(1), 47-67. doi:10.1111/j.1556-4797.2010.01051.x
Jacobsen, K. H. (2014). Introduction to Global Health (2nd edition ed.). Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Rafael, P.-E. (2010). Health Care Access among Latinos: Implications for Social and Health Care Reforms. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 9(1), 43-60.