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Black women in Ohio most likely to face discrimination in health care, according to survey results

Black women were most likely to report facing discrimination in the health care system, according to survey results released Thursday by the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition, UHCAN Ohio, the Ohio Unity Coalition, and the Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competency.

More than 800 Ohioans responded to the survey, and Black women reported being treated with less courtesy or respect in a medical setting twice as often as white men.

Discrimination in health care settings can be a matter of life and death, said Tracy Maxwell Heard, Executive Director of Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence, Inc.

"(It) not only creates a disparate treatment environment but most importantly delivers inequitable service with negative impacts up to and including death," Heard said. 

The organizations hope to see changes in Ohio hospitals responding to issues raised in the survey. 

"The expectation from that, hopefully, is that this does impact policies, procedures, and, most specifically, funding," Heard said. 

Heard wants to see cultural competency training become a requirement of licensing and funding hospitals. 

"Until we begin to mandate that as an expectation for engagement, then we're really going to be limited in the traction that we get, because it's not something you can do with one company, or one organization. We're looking at systemic and institutional racism that we're trying to address over centuries. So, it's going to take some time to unravel this," Heard said. 

Survey finds Black men and white women also face discrimination

Women of any race reported having their symptoms dismissed, including 58% of Black women and 52% of white women. Only 20% of white males reported having their symptoms dismissed. 

Black men were four times more likely to report being harassed in a medical setting than white men. 20% of Black men reported that “people act as if they are afraid of you,” compared to 6% of white men.  

As income increased, people were less likely to report experiencing discrimination, and the type of insurance a person might have could also affect the quality of care. 

People with Affordable Care Act insurance, Medicaid insurance, or no insurance were more likely to report discrimination than people with employer-based insurance or Medicare. 

What people do if they are facing discrimination

Filing a complaint was the least likely response to discrimination, according to the survey results. Only 15% of people said they would file a complaint.

The most common reaction was “did not return for future appointments," (24%), followed by “accepted it as a fact of life” (22%), and “talked to someone about their feelings” (21%).

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