Local doctors address racial inequalities in health care

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – Racism and inequalities can be seen throughout black history and while there has been progress, discrimination is still present today.

When it comes to health care doctors say many African Americans are reluctant to seek medical care due to distrust that comes from a history of inequitable medical treatment. Doctor Damon Daniels with Wellspring Family Medicine says African Americans are at higher risk for many chronic diseases. According to Doctor Daniels there are reports that show 80% of African Americans in Lee County are either overweight or obese . He believes many African Americans are just not aware of the health conditions they have and some of this can be attributed to broken trust in the health care system. He says African Americans are still pressing toward progress. 

“So for instance in the 1970s, only 20% of all African Americans could read or write and in less than 60 years it was down to 10%. So historically we have the ability to to make changes and now we’re in the area where we really need to focus on our health as a community. And it really starts at the family level, people who you love, and people you care about – you need to let them know ‘hey, you need to get your health checked out’,” says Doctor Daniels.

The 1932 Tuskegee experiment sparked fear in many black people, a study where doctors withheld treatment from black men infected with syphilis. Doctor Kari-Claudia Allen with Prisma Health says African Americans are still trying to push past injustices like these.

“Our country has a long history of injustices in our American healthcare system when it comes to the care for black people, so a lot of people are still trying to overcome that I think. In today’s day and age the best thing we can do is listen to our bodies and have conversations with our families about the family history,” says Doctor Allen. 

Doctor Daniel adds it is important for black people to know their health history and status, and to how to advocate for their health. 

“When you go to the doctor, if you’re not comfortable communicating with your physician, take a family member that you trust to go with you because many times you may have questions that you want to ask but you’re not comfortable with that. It’s also helpful if you have and advocate in the exam room with you,” said Doctor Daniels. 

Doctor Allen urges African Americans to continue the conversations of equality when it comes to mental and physical health care.  “Conversations that weren’t being had 50 years ago and so I just want to encourage us to continue to be empowered, to show up and be active participant in our own health, to engage with research studies so that we know more about how diseases affect black people.”

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