Alternative Healthcare Providers

In Chapter 12, Weitz explains how limited research there is on alternative techniques apart from allopathic medicine. She associates this limited research to the barriers to obtain funding as pharmaceutical companies do not have incentives to fund research on herbs or techniques that they cannot patent. This brings us to question how the for-profit companies in our capitalist economic system has shaped our healthcare choices and how it has impact our health. Like the economics term “opportunity cost”, it is interesting to think of what our opportunity cost is by giving these social institutions (pharmaceutical companies, legal institution, government, healthcare providers) the power and authority to define and narrow our healthcare choices, and what impact it has on our body and our social positions with these clearly defined healthcare options?

The second issue that intrigues me is how our society has framed different healthcare services according to its reflection of social status. An example to illustrate this is childbirth by lay midwives or by medical assistance. By associating medical assistance as a reflection of an upper class’s childbirth choice, and lay midwives as lower class and associated with African Americans midwives, it is important to highlight the social factors – such as gender, race and class – in our healthcare system, which is not supposed to discriminate. Hence, we may ask, how has the institution of healthcare further marginalise the social positions of women, non-whites, and lower-class?

Diversity in Med School Students

According to a recent study, the number of African American students applying to medical school has been decreasing within the last 40 years. This has become a concern for not only the African American community, but also the health care field. Why is it important that medical schools stress diversity of all races? What could be an explanation for the decline of African American students who apply to medical school? How could medical schools encourage more African American students to apply to medical school?

October Analytical Post Kunal Khurana

Posted earlier, but realized it didn’t go through again……

Studies have suggested that a significant proportion of white middle-aged Americans have been experiencing a steadily increasing mortality rate since 1999. The group is specifically described by white men and women aged 45-54 with less than a college education. Not only are they dying at a faster rate, they are reporting elevated levels of physical pain and psychological distress. Higher drug overdoses and alcohol use is also reported.

The most likely causes for the rising mortality rate include legal and illegal drugs, alcohol, and suicide. These results are particularly surprising, because no other large demographic group in an advanced nation has experienced an increasing mortality rate except for Russian men after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Most of the individuals in this cohort are heading towards retirement and therefore will be eligible for Medicare very soon. This sicker population will therefore place a greater economic burden on federal programs as well a greater demand for doctors. Thus, the question is not only of how to pay for it but also how to meet the increasing healthcare needs of this population. This can only mean more problems for an already strained system. The other alarming aspect of this situation is that, since lack of college education is the defining factor of this cohort, the effects may not go away. After all, nearly half the population contains only a high school diploma or dropped out of high school.

Researchers are particularly interested by the fact that the effects applied exclusively to whites and not blacks, even though the former enjoy certain societal advantages. Socioeconomic circumstances like low education, low incomes, and race all supposedly work against African-Americans, but this isn’t reflected in the mortality data collected in the study. This is very surprising to me personally, because there are thousands of studies that establish poorer health quality in African-Americans. I’ve seen these health disparities first-hand in the DC Area while working with George Washington University’s Rodham Institute. Thus, it is difficult for me to rationalize the idea that white Americans are exclusively experiencing these rising mortality rates. It must mean that, although African Americans suffer from poor health, their situation is improving, while that of white Americans isn’t.

Is health dependent on more than race and socioeconomic status?

In class, we have watched several short films that suggest that socioeconomic status and an individual’s environment play a large role in determining health. What struck me was the last piece of information we looked at in class on Tuesday; the Hispanic paradox. This paradox seemed to suggest that even though Black and Hispanic Americans are both minorities who share lower socioeconomic statuses in our country, there is an alarming difference in the health of African Americans and Hispanics. On average, Hispanics tend to be healthier. This has nothing to do with race, African citizens from Africa tend to have better health in Africa than most Blacks here in the United States. The short film we watched suggested that culture and interpersonal relationships had something to do with determining health. I found this very interesting because there are theories in sociology that discuss the nature of individuals who are isolated from a community and how it affects them. Hispanics have a tight knit culture and often times older family members stay with their children rather than being left alone or forced into nursing homes. Other than strong social bonds, how else does Hispanic culture compared to African American culture tie into health? What other differences affect African Americans?

Social Economic Status and Race Leading to Unfairness in the Justice System

This discussion post doesn’t come directly from the readings for the week, but the general ideas from the readings apply well. Last night I watched a Vice documentary about President Obama’s visit to jail in his quest to reform the criminal justice system. One part of the documentary really stood out to me. A police officer being interviewed said that he was instructed to go to neighborhoods where young african americans lived, in search for people age 18-24 in possession of drugs. He was instructed to make arrests for any amount of drug, whether recreational or intent to sell. The cop then said if he went to a white neighborhood instead, with the same strategy, he would make just as many arrests as he did in the african american neighborhoods.

It seems as if cops are preying on easy targets. These cops travel to lower social economic status regions in search of arresting targets who may not have enough money to hire a lawyer or pay fines to get out of going to prison. The documentary continues to talk about how people end up getting trapped in a system where after they get out of jail, it’s impossible to get a job to pay fines to prevent getting sent back to jail.

How does someones SES effect their discrimination in the face of the law? Can our generalizations about the disadvantage of race also be extended to the justice system? Do flaws in our justice system promote these endless cycles of low SES? If so, these cycles can lead to less healthy lives for people involved and their families.

Why are we ignoring the importance of socioeconomic status?

We’ve become all too familiar with the racial disparities that African Americans have faced, and continue to face on a day to day basis. African Americans have constantly been faced with social disadvantages, including “poor heredity, neglect of infants, bad dwellings, poor food, and unsanitary living conditions” (Williams and Sternhal, pg. S16). African Americans have also been noted to have among the lowest socioeconomic statuses of all races, which have detrimental and perpetuating effects on healthcare, access to education, living environments, job opportunities, etc. Racial segregation also has a huge impact on African Americans, as “blacks currently live under a level of segregation that is higher than that of any other immigrant group in U.S. history” (Williams and Sternhal, pg. S20).

It’s evident in Williams and Sternhal’s article, Understanding Racial-ethnic Disparities in Health : Sociological Contributions, that these issues that African Americans face have stemmed from a historical lineage of constant oppression and stratification. It has also been highlighted the importance of approaching these issues from a socioeconomic standpoint, rather than just a basic race stance. Race has already been proved to have absolutely no biological context to it, and is simply a social construct that we as a society have created. “Sociological research has shown that differences in SES affect patterns and trajectories of health in important ways” (Williams and Sternhal, S21). Analyzing social issues from a socioeconomic point of view has given sociologists not only a better image of the problem, but an even better image of possible solutions to such a perpetuating problem. Since SES includes the many aspects that simply “race” does not, including education, living conditions, income level, etc., sociologists are able to isolate problems and provide reasonings and methods as to ways of combatting the problem.

My question begins with this: It is clear that the general consensus among many sociologists is that socioeconomic status can provide much insight into why exactly certain racial problems exist, and in what ways they’re affecting a racial group. SES is also extremely helpful in determining solutions and rationalizing these persisting problems, evident from Williams and Sternhals paper. Why is it, then, that the U.S. public system continues to report national health data by race? To put it in context, “For over 100 years, the U.S. public health system has routinely reported national health data by race. Instructively, although SES differences in health are typically larger than racial ones, health status differences by SES are seldom reported, and only very rarely are data on health status presented by race and SES simultaneously” (Williams and Sternhal, S22). Why are health status differences by SES seldom reported, when it is in fact SES that helps determine solutions and preventative measures in order to fix such a persisting problem? Is the U.S. public system trying to purposely hide such a significant problem, or are they avoiding the potentially costly measures we need to take in order to fix the problems we see through socioeconomic status?

Socio-Economic Status and Race

We have been studying how the socio-economic status of a person is a strong predictor of health, as well as what factors contribute to this status. In fact, the socio-economic status of a person is a better predictor of health problems than genetics.  Why is that important to our discussion of race? It’s very important because, on average, in our society, socio-economic status differs by race. On average, African Americans have lower levels of income, lower levels of wealth, and lower levels of education than whites do. And for other minority populations, a similar pattern is evident. Additionally, African Americans have a high mortality and morbidity rate as well.

Continue reading “Socio-Economic Status and Race”


In “Understanding Racial-ethnic Disparities in Health : Sociological Contributions”, David Williams and Michelle Sternthal explore racial and ethnic inequalities in health in the United States. Personally, I am a proponent of color-blindness, but I question if it is a possibility in America’s future. The section of this publication titled “Racism and Health” opened my eyes to the concrete data and evidence that shows that our nation is still inherently racist, both intentionally and unintentionally. Williams and Sternthal reveal the very real presence of racial segregation that remains in this nation to this day, and this concerns me greatly.

Is institutional and wide-spread color-blindness a possibility in the future here in the United States? What, if anything, can/must be done to bring this change about? Is segregation and racism an unavoidable and everlasting aspect of our cultural fabric now?

Continue reading “COLOR BLIND”

Does Race Alone Influence Health Outcomes?

In Williams’ and Sternthal’s article, “Understanding Racial-Ethnic Disparities in Health: Sociological Contributions”, they explain that factors such as race, racial discrimination, gender, socioeconomic status, and social structure all have a role in health outcomes in the United States. Although we as a country have come a long way in the fight against racial discrimination, it seems that it is still a pressing issue in today’s society regarding the media, health care, violence, etc. In regards to health care, where doctors take an oath to do no harm and what ever they can to provide care to someone, it is hard for me to agree that health outcomes are because of race alone. Sure, there will be outliers that do discriminate their patients because of race, but generally, I do not think race plays a huge role in health outcomes. I think most health disparities are due to socioeconomic status.  Socioeconomic status and race are intertwined and the go hand-in-hand. Thus, I do not think racial discrimination alone accounts for a lot of health disparities but instead I believe that health disparities are due to socioeconomic status and that those people just happen to be apart of a minority racial group.  This is the reason why people are seeing health disparities when they look at solely at racial groups.

I would love to hear the opinions of others who think similarly or that that racial discrimination in the health care settings play a major factor in health disparities. Does racism alone actually correlate to health outcomes?  Another question I want to ask is that how do these studies access racism and quality of care for someone who can afford to see a doctor among different racial groups.  If the argument against my claim holds true and that racial discrimination alone influences health outcomes, then what are the health outcomes of minorities who can afford doctors and are well off? If racial discrimination is a big influence, shouldn’t their outcomes reflect among the general population among their race or is it different?

Doctor’s Racism Plays a role in Patient Care, Too

Today I read a disturbing article by Maggie Fox called “Black Kids Get Less Pain Medication Than White Kids in ER.” It specifically addresses appendicitis, a common emergency surgery for many teenagers. Even though painkillers are strongly recommended in any appendicitis surgery, only about half of African American children are given painkillers. Not only that, but the article discusses how black patients with severe pain are less likely to be given opiods, even though this painkiller treatment is routinely given to white patients during post-surgery pain management. However, this is not because doctors perceive African Americans as having pain; in contrast, according to the article, research has found that clinicians do indeed recognize pain equally for all groups—clinicians are simply less inclined to give black patients proper pain treatment and management.

Even though I found this article disturbing, I did not find it shocking. The USA has a long history of discrimination and systematic racism against African Americans, whether it be in the healthcare system, in the prison system, in education, in housing, or in the welfare system. Thus, racist biases from clinicians are not surprising, but rather, are unfortunately nothing short of expected. Nonetheless, this article and other articles that stress these racist biases need to be more publicized in the media to allow greater awareness about the continuing injustices Blacks continually face.

Continue reading “Doctor’s Racism Plays a role in Patient Care, Too”