Written by: Saradha Miriyala
Edited by: Julienne Chaqour
The presidential debate on September 29th brought many things to light on the national stage. Immortalized in memes, the debate was outraging, heart-wrenching, and even ridiculous at times. However one surprising, and frankly alarming statistic presented during the debate was Vice President Joe Biden citing the alarming statistic that the COVID-19 pandemic has killed 1 out 1000 black Americans.
It is uncontested that the ongoing public health crisis has affected the BIPOC community more than white Americans in the United States, and even the current administration's CDC acknowledges this fact . However what most people don't know is that BIPOC are underserved by the medical community in many more contexts.
The United States, despite being a leading spender in healthcare , still has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world. Based on a 2007-2016 CDC study, black and indigenous mothers over 30 were four to five times likely to die due to pregnancy-related issues than their white counterparts. This statistic stayed steady even when other social determinants of health that usually correspond to better maternal outcomes were taken into account; black mothers with college degrees, for example, were still 5.2 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues .
Maternal mortality has also been shown to be swayed by public sentiment. For example, following September 11, 2001, Arab-Americans in the United States reported increased harassment, violence, and workplace discrimination. Alarmingly, in the 6 months following September 11th, this also corresponded to higher "relative risk of poor birth outcomes" for women with Arabic names in California versus any other group .
Ultimately, medicine should be blind and objective; there is no reason that one patient should receive better care and therefore have better outcomes than any other patient. Moreover, patient care should not be affected by politics or public prejudice, as it has proved to before. The upcoming election is a watershed in several healthcare-related issues that require immediate attention, but perhaps it is time to also focus on the issue of racial prejudice in health as well.