Medical disparity is an old concept that is prevalent in the healthcare system of the United States of America. Disparities refer to the differences in access to quality health care among different population groups. People of color have suffered the most as indicated by surveys involving the incidence, mortality, prevalence, and the burden of diseases. Existing evidence has revealed differential health outcomes among various ethnic groups. In many cases, the variances originate from inequities such as socioeconomic status that are widespread in American society. This phenomenon should be corrected as it is unjust and paints a bad image for the US healthcare system. Several authors and researchers have discussed the issue and three trends that disclose the severity of the matter and the need for a prompt correction can be identified. They include the development of desperation in disparity, undertreatment of minority groups, and the key role that religion plays in mitigating the disparities.
The Development of Despair
According to Deas (2008), one of the trends that has emerged due to systematic disparities in the healthcare system is the development of despair. The author defines it as the loss of hope and confidence, and attributes it to several factors. These include a lack of money to finance the healthcare system, poor governance, and funding cuts to raise money for the financing of unjustified wars. It is unfortunate than hospitals and other healthcare facilities are among the first to suffer cutbacks when the government has insufficient money to support its programs. These cuts render the facilities unable to offer proper medical care (Deas, 2008). Despair sets in when the more than 40 million uninsured Americans fail to receive adequate medical care.
Poor relationships between medical care providers and patients is another cause of despair. Many physicians do not adhere to the tenets of the Hippocratic Oath that they pledged upon completion of their studies. This has the effect of creating an underserved and unhealthy population. The author argues that the Oath should motivate healthcare providers to provide quality services to their patients, even though they cannot afford to pay (Deas, 2008). The potential effects of despair in disparity include homicide, parricide, infanticide, deicide, and suicide (Deas, 2018). This claim seems far fetched as few studies had been done at the time of the article’s publishing to prove the validity of the argument. Despair exists in the healthcare system. However, its effects are not as severe as presented because the system has improved significantly in the past decade.
Another trend that is evident in the published literature is undertreatment due to disparities in prostate cancer (PCa) management. Persaud (2016) notes that African American and Hispanic men are less likely to receive specialized treatments when compared to white and Asian men. Procedures such as cryotherapy, radical surgery, and radiotherapy are key in the treatment of localized prostate cancer. However, higher mortality rates are recorded among black and Hispanic men because they are underserved (Persaud, 2016). A study conducted in conjunction with the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee concluded that Hispanic patients received inadequate medical care. For instance, they were 5% less likely to receive treatment when compared to white men (Persaud, 2016). The D’Amico risk classification examination showed that the probabilities of African American patients getting quality treatment were 19%, 26%, and 38% lower than in white patients in the low, medium, and high risk groups respectively (Persaud, 2016).
Disparities have also been identified in other ways within racial and ethnic groups. Older men are less likely to receive treatment than younger ones. However, African American patients who are diagnosed with PCa early receive less treatment. The research also identified geographical location and socioeconomic status as factors that caused disparities. Hispanic men with high-risk disease were 21% less likely to receive treatment than white and Asian patients (Persaud, 2016). The treatment disparity between Asian and white patients appeared in the age of diagnosis and severity of disease, even though both received adequate medical care. Recommendations to mitigate the differences include policy changes, workforce diversification, and patient education (Persaud, 2016). It is important for physicians to discuss with their patients the risks and benefits inherent in each treatment modality. The mitigation of this trend commenced with the passage of The Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2012 (Persaud, 2016). Access to care has increased, especially among people of color. The percentage of African American and Hispanic men receiving care for prostate cancer has risen significantly in the past few years.
The Influence of Religion
Another apparent trend in the literature about systematic disparities in the healthcare system is the influence of religious and spiritual communities on health outcomes. The connection between religion and medicine has been a controversial issue for many years. Research conducted in this area has revealed that religious faith and spirituality play an important part in the treatment of patients who believe in God (Nelson, 2017). For instance, they improve the physical health and sense of wellbeing in patients and their families. The incorporation of spirituality through partnerships with religious institutions has introduced an important dimension with regard to treatment modalities. A recent study revealed that cancer patients who have a relationship with a higher power showed better self-reported physical health outcomes than those who did not (Nelson, 2017) However, such studies have been criticized because of the unavailability of adequate information. It is unethical for scientists to make conclusions regarding the effect of religion on such health matters as survival because the field has not been explored extensively. Moreover, personal circumstances can push individuals into abdicating their spirituality and faith when despair sets in.
One of the benefits of religious interventions is that they give patients a higher sense of meaning, and therefore, they enhance their quality of life and overall wellbeing. Studies have shown that collaborations between religious institutions and medical facilities have succeeded in addressing issues such as smoking, unhealthy eating, and cancer screening (Nelson, 2017). Religious leaders promote health messages that aim to teach followers the importance of embracing preventive health strategies. For instance, among Catholic Latinos in the US, parishes offer social support, and promote positive behaviors (Nelson, 2017). In the Appalachian region, the rates of patient recruitment for chemotherapy trials are relatively low compared to other areas in the country. Scientists have suggested that researchers and religious institutions should work together and find ways of how to improve the health of the people. An important role that religious leaders can play is building trust in their congregants and making them comfortable in order for them to engage with medical providers and researchers (Nelson, 2017). This can be used as a mitigation strategy against the disparities prevalent in the healthcare system.
Disparities in the US healthcare system have led to the lack of adequate medical care by people of color. Studies conducted on the topic have established several trends that have either mitigated or intensified the disparities. They include the development of despair, undertreatment, and religion. Despair results from a lack of adequate funding and cutbacks by the government, which renders hospitals unable to provide proper medical care. Undertreatment has been observed among people of color, especially African Americans and Hispanics. White and Asian men enjoy more and better treatment than the aforementioned underserved groups. Religion has mitigated the aforementioned disparities by improving the overall wellbeing of patients and giving them a purpose through belief in God.
Deas, G. W. (2008). Medical despair in disparity. The New York Amsterdam News. Web.
Nelson, B. (2017). When religion opens the door. Despite the challenges, partnerships with religious and spiritual communities can address medical disparities and improve patients’ wellbeing. Cancer Cytopathology, 125(12), 885-886.
Persaud, N. (2016). Racial gap found in PCa treatment. Renal & Urology News, 15(9), 26. Web.