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Equity in Healthcare: It’s Our Duty to Continue MLK’s Legacy

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman…”
-Martin Luther King Jr.

These words, spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1966, still ring true today as systemic inequities in healthcare continue to shock the nerves of the human race. Inequities occur when barriers prevent groups, often minority groups, from equal access to health resources, including anything from medical care to clean air. These obstacles in healthcare impact individuals in unfair ways and keep them from achieving their full potential. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., we are dedicated to remembering his wishes and working tirelessly to ensure they are transformed into active change.

Addressing causes

So how can we combat healthcare inequities? The first step is to recognize that this unfairness exists in our society and we, as healthcare professionals, may be unintentionally contributing to it. Bias, stereotyping, and prejudice lead to minority groups being treated differently than others. Even when actions are not intended to be inherently racist or discriminatory, attitudes and actions can have an adverse impact. Research has shown everyone, regardless of race, harbors subconscious bias toward certain minority groups. These subtle prejudices may be difficult to see in our everyday actions, yet they are present in the way we behave toward each other. Refusing to admit the presence of these micro-behaviors only propagates the cycle of oppression.

Finding optimal equity solutions

Once we admit these inequities exist, we can begin to source and compare solutions to begin a path to a brighter future. Today, two in three black adults cite discrimination as a significant stressor in their life. So, how can we change that? It will take more than just understanding the causes — we must actively seek solutions and constantly evaluate whether these solutions are creating intended results.

The Prevention Institute, in a roundtable on health inequities, proposed four methods for approaching inequities in healthcare:

  • Strengthen communities especially those surrounding areas of inequity
  • Make high-quality care more accessible to everyone
  • Nourish the infrastructure of the healthcare systems at play
  • Support policy initiatives for health equality at local and national levels
  • Taking a multifaceted approach

While these four key areas provide a strong foundation for how to begin addressing these complex problems, we must remember that these problems are just that: complex. Healthcare inequities are rooted in the very beginning of healthcare itself, so finding a long-term solution is not going to be presented as a step-by-step list. We must continue using all of our resources to address as many aspects of inequity as possible.

At denova, we are dedicated to living up to the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and fostering his desire for equality in healthcare. We understand healthcare is more than just treatment; it is a holistic approach for the mind and the body that varies for every patient that walks through our doors.

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Amanda Keenhold, LAC

Licensed Associate Counselor

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