How COVID-19 is amplifying racial disparities in health care

Written by on February 22, 2022

How COVID-19 is amplifying racial disparities in health care

By Megan Frank
February 22, 2022

LVHN’s Dr. Robert Ray Jr is working with an internal task force on diversity and inclusion. (Photo courtesy of LVHN)

The pandemic continues to shed a light on racial disparities in American health care.  

A recent Gallup survey found that people of color are significantly more worried than white individuals about getting infected, largely due to a lack of access to affordable care.  

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The survey reported that nearly seven in 10 Black and Hispanic adults, or 69%, are very or somewhat stressed about contracting the virus. That’s compared to 57% of white adults.

Over the past few years, Lehigh Valley Health Network  has formed an internal task force focused on diversity and inclusion to help bridge the gap. 

Dr. Robert Ray Jr., an emergency medicine resident, works with the group to educate staff and recruit new hires from different racial backgrounds.  

He says this will help LVHN build stronger relationships with patients.  

“Those disparities existed before,” said Ray. “COVID just highlighted them in real-time.  Things like access to health care and access to health care information.  We can continue to build those relationships so that these conversations can be had.”

Dr. Ray explained that during the pandemic, some people have faced more challenges than others.  

“What seemed like easy recommendations for all of us, didn’t pan out like that for all communities,” Ray said. “They might not get tested, or they might not be willing to follow those rules, because that might mean that their family doesn’t have any source of income for two weeks.”

Last year, the Brookings Institution found Black and Hispanic individuals experienced a nearly three-year decline in their life expectancies largely due to COVID. 

Ray says he hopes the lessons learned about health care inequities lead to better outcomes in the future. 

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