W1: How Health is Effected by Racial Disparities

Biologically, race does not exist.  Homo sapiens are all a part of one species, we are all one race.  Humans have not been around long enough, or had populations of humans isolated from everyone else, to have developed into subspecies (What is Race?, 2003).  When looking at the genetic make-up of humans we are 99.9% genetically identical to one another (American Anthropology Association Exploring Our Molecular Selves Activity, 2016), which makes us “the most similar of all species” (What Is Race?, 2003).  There is not a single genetic trait that separates one “racial” group from another (What Is Race?, 2003); for instance, some think that Sickle Cell Anemia is a disease that only affects people who have a dark skin color, such as African Americans.  This is incorrect.  The people who are affected by this disease, whether as carriers or those with the disease itself, are people who come from an area of the world that is highly affected by Malaria; places such as the Mediterranean and West and Central Africa (American Anthropology Association Health Connections Activity, 2016).  As the American Anthropology Association stated, both the sickled red blood cell and the parasite that causes Malaria are taken out of the body through the spleen, which means that the person with Sickle Cell Anemia does not experience a drastic case of Malaria (American Anthropology Association Health Connections Activity, 2016).

Socially, however, race does exist.  This social concept unfortunately has the ability to dictate peoples’ “access to opportunities and resources”; effectively creating advantages for some and disadvantages for many others (What Is Race?, 2003).  One of these disadvantages is the  lack of access to medical services that members of minority groups have, and how that affects their health.  After watching the episode of Becoming American, “Latino immigrants arrive healthy, so why don’t they stay that way?”, it is clear that when immigrants come to this country they are healthy.  However, this good health starts to decline after being in America for a longer period of time (Becoming American, 2008).  Some of this decline can be attributed to the language barrier that can exist between the different ethnic groups of people and the health professionals in the US (Disparities in Healthcare Qualities Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups, 2014).  It was found in the 2010 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports that individuals who speak another language at home had a difficult time communicating with health professionals such as doctors and nurses (Disparities in Healthcare Qualities Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups, 2014).  For this reason, communication was only really affective between patients, nurses, and doctors when a translator was present.


“Disparities in Healthcare Quality Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups: Selected Findings From the 2010 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports.” Last modified October 2014. Accessed July 16, 2016. http://archive.ahrq.gov/research/findings/nhqrdr/nhqrdr10/minority.html.

One thought on “W1: How Health is Effected by Racial Disparities

  1. Hi Lucy,

    I think you make a really good point by showing that humans are all 99.9% genetically identical and by showing that even genetic traits that are attributed to race are, in fact, caused by factors entirely different from race. Just because someone has a certain skin color does not mean that they are more likely than a person of another skin color to have a specific illness. As is pointed out in Lesson 1.2, there is more genetic diversity within a “race” than there is between “races.” This shows that we cannot base our opinions of health on race.

    I also like the point you bring up about differing amounts of access to resources and opportunities. In certain parts of the world, access to the appropriate health care is limited. This would certainly be a factor that could make it seem as though a certain “race” was predisposed to illness. Even in America, there is a disparity in access for certain populations. As you show, language barriers can make communicating health information very difficult and is definitely an issue in getting appropriate health care.

    Your examples show that there are many factors, aside from race, that contribute to health and to health care access. I think it is very important for the world to better understand that race is not a factor in health, so as to give all people equal access to the things they need.


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