Racism and inequality can affect your health, experts say

Friday, August 14, 2020
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Nationally-known cardiologist Dr. Michelle Albert weighs in on how racism and feelings of inequality can actually affect your health.

Several state leaders, including Pennsylvania, have declared racism "a public health crisis." Many healthcare workers have said this for years and they say it's time those inequalities be addressed.

The inequities are not a new problem but the pandemic has shined the spotlight on it. A nationally-known cardiologist weighs in on this and how racism and feelings of inequality can actually affect your health.

As the death rate from COVID-19 started to climb in April, alarming statistics emerged... black and hispanic Americans were being hit much harder than whites.

Philadelphia now reports African Americans make up more than 50 percent of coronavirus deaths, despite only representing 40 percent of the city's population.

Major medical groups have vowed to address the inequalities. Some are also trying to get Americans more aware of the role stress related to racial bias and discrimination plays on heart health.

Dr. Michelle Albert. President of the Association of Black Cardiologists, says racial stress causes wear and tear on the body.

"We know that it's related to high blood pressure, for example. We know that it's related to what in medicine is called inflammation, and inflammation is an important component of the process that results in heart attacks and strokes," she said

But she says due to poor race relations in the past, many black patients don't trust the medical system so they might delay care.

She's working with the American Heart Association to encourage more bias training in medical institutions.

"We know this is there. So let's work together, and we often work together to solve the issues we have. One of the things I say to folks is that, you know, what can you do as an individual," said Dr. Albert.

On a broader level, she encourages everyone to get involved with social issues in your community. Speak up and advocate for change, because many times inequality in healthcare comes back to disparities in education and other opportunities.