Access to care is one of the most significant factors fueling the racial divide in healthcare. New research shows that rural Black Americans are two to three times more likely to die from diabetes or high blood pressure than rural whites.
That gap has remained relatively unchanged for two decades.
Healthcare is not free from racism. Rural and urban Black communities “face system inequities which lead to worse health outcomes,” said study author Dr. Rahul Aggarwal. Aggarwal also said structural racism and a lack of access to quality care were magnified in rural healthcare for Black Americans.
Study authors noted public policy changes would be needed to help shorten the gap.
The research will be published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Researchers found that racial disparities in healthcare haven’t changed much in 20 years in rural areas. They said the gap had improved in urban areas over the same time. This is likely because of the availability of hospitals and more care options.
A variety of factors contribute to racial inequalities in healthcare access and treatment. The ability to visit and trust a doctor allows patients to learn about health conditions, like blood high blood pressure, that they may not realize they have.
But it’s not just hospital availability that causes the divide. Disproportionate poverty, stress, access to nutrition, and access to information also make it more difficult for rural Black Americans to improve heart health outcomes.
Racism touches every facet of society, including health risks, healthcare, and outcomes.
Taking care of your heart requires a multi-step approach. It involves eating fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting processed foods and sugar. It involves getting exercise every day, stress management, and quality sleep.
Heart health also involves access to information, doctors, and medicine.
Without a strong effort by governments to address how systemic racism influences healthcare, the rural gap in health outcomes may remain.