Zing Health is committed to health equity—helping people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic status reach their optimum level of health and wellness. During Black History Month, which this year has a theme of Black Health and Wellness, we explore racial health inequity on the Zing Health blog.
The pandemic reflects the extent of racial health inequity in the United States. Compared to whites, the rate of hospital admissions for COVID-19 is 2.5 times higher for Blacks and 2.4 times for Hispanics. A similar pattern of racially disparate outcomes can be found in diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and other disorders.
Facts About Health Disparities in the Black Community
- Black individuals are 5 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID than white people.
- Incidence of chronic conditions like high blood pressure is higher in the Black population than whites.
- Colon cancer is more prevalent and has higher mortality for Black individuals than any ethnic population.
- Black mental health concerns are underdiagnosed and undertreated. Depression in the Black community is more disabling, persistent, and resistant to treatment.
Addressing Barriers in Social Determinants of Health
The risk of some medical conditions is passed on within families, which accounts for some racial disparities. But many people also live in environments that lack resources to help them maintain wellness. For example, healthy food builds the immune system. Lack of access to fresh food makes it harder to ward off flu and other seasonal infections, as well as asthma and other chronic diseases.
Much of a patient’s overall wellness or even how they respond to treatment for chronic conditions is due to factors at home and in the community – not in the doctor’s office. Doctors who are committed to reducing health inequity ask their patients questions that consider not only personal and family history but also social determinants of health. This information helps providers address the biggest risks to their patients’ health. For example, a provider or health plan may connect a patient who is having trouble heating their home, which aggravates their arthritis symptoms, with community assistance paying for utilities.
“Social determinants of health drive at least 60% of the health outcome,” said Dr. Trent Haywood, Zing Health chief medical officer. “For example, it is critically important to maintain proper nutrition if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. You need community health workers, such as dieticians and social services, to help people eat healthfully in those cases.”
Meeting patient needs extends beyond the doctor’s office and into the community. For example, the ability to read and understand information from the healthcare provider is also crucial to health outcomes. A care team, nurse navigator, pharmacist, or other community resource can help people with vision or reading issues understand and follow doctor’s instructions after a hospitalization or other medical event.
“Making sure that someone can read their prescription bottles, that they are taking the right medicines, and that the drugs they're taking aren't interacting with one another goes a long way towards helping people live longer and more vital lives,” said Dr. Eric Whitaker, Zing Health co-founder and chief executive officer.
Overcoming Racial Bias in Health Equity
Healthcare providers also can be unaware of biases that blind them to a person of color’s needs. Patients can choose a new primary care physician or medical specialist if they feel they are not getting the attention, respect and care they deserve.
Zing Health is devoting 1% of investor equity to the CPASS Foundation to inspire careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields in under-represented communities, and to support Black and Brown medical students. They hope to address health issues in the community by providing a more diverse and informed choice of healthcare providers. The American Medical Association also recognized this concern in its plan for health equity. It set goals to improve medical education and awareness of bias.
“The pandemic has revealed and widened the health disparities that plague Black and Brown communities, and the lack of trust that the medical community must overcome to bring truly equitable health outcomes,” said Dr. Whitaker. “Making the ranks of medical practitioners more diverse and inclusive is crucial to empowering under-resourced communities with the knowledge that helps them achieve wellness.”