Racism In Medicine - Does Your Skin Make A Difference?

You hear about it everywhere, social injustice, racial tension. Medicine should be the one place free of this, shouldn't it?

Your doctor should be impartial, helping everyone equally, right?

But, that does not often happen. There are disparities between sex, race, and age in medicine.

And even though this is happening, it may not be why you think. So, please take a look at what's actually going on.

No, This Isn't Just Another Fluff Piece

Before you read this, this isn't just another fluff piece to make you feel good, wind up your social justice status, or cast blame without offering solutions.

We're going to give you the facts, what's really happening in medicine and then tell you what you can do about it.

Fair warning, this will take work on your part. These solutions just aren't something you can spout off and expect others to do the work for you. If you're going to take charge of your health and get the best possible care, you have to do the work and research.

Why Researchers Break Down Participants Based On Color, Sex, Age, and Illness

Medications and treatments react differently to different people. Hormones, physical structure, age, and level of illness affect the way different things react.

Researchers prefer young, Caucasian males for research subjects. Not because of racism, but because they provide a very homogeneous and consistent result. Then, that baseline is what others test against.

Sex plays a big difference, and many studies separate the results for men and women. Women also tend to have a much wider range of results due to the shifts in estrogen and progesterone.

And although there aren't many differences, some races do respond to certain medications differently. When trying to get approval for medication use, having consistent, reproducible numbers makes a difference.

Does Your Skin Color Change Your Health?

No, skin color doesn't make a difference, but decent does.

People of African descent tend to have an increased risk of heart disease. Those of Asian descent tend towards obesity and diabetes. Caucasian tend towards depression and mental disorders.

Asian descent responds much faster and more reliably to depression medication, probably due to a lack of a particular enzyme that processes alcohol, making the medication remain in their system longer. Although heart medications work the same for most, diabetes medications have lower effectiveness and adherence rates in African descent.

People of Middle Eastern descent metabolize all medications faster, and they require more frequent doses. Indian subcontinent descent natives do not metabolize calcium channel blockers effectively, resulting in several deaths from overdose.

People of European descent require higher doses of dementia and brain-stabilizing medications to achieve the same effect as other races.

If you know your tendency, you can take steps to help reduce the incidence. Diet and exercise play a huge role in mitigating disease. But, culturally and habitually, many people eat a very poor diet. This is true over all races equally.

Pain tolerance and medications seem to have similar problems. Caucasian women received the most amount of antidepressants, while Caucasian men received the most pain medication. Overall, it seems people of color receive less pain medication and depression treatment, particularly when the physician is a bit older.

What You Can Do About It Right Now

It will take time, perhaps a whole generation, to change attitudes in medicine. The attitudes of doctors and nurses are changing, being more inclusive. It will take much longer for research to change, if it changes at all.

We don't want to see research apply the same label for everyone when a particular sex or race is more susceptible to problems. For this, we're going to need more separation in research.

And that will delay true integration in the medical field. Doctors will need to think of their patients in terms of race to understand medication and health concerns properly. But, rather than creating equality, it's going to drive a wedge further between the races.

That's not to say all doctors and nurses will treat different people as lesser. Most are very kind and caring individuals that don't care what a person's skin color is. Speaking with your doctor or nurse about your concerns over various medications and how it reacts to your race is smart.

However, what that's going to require from you is to research on what is most prevalent for your race, the area you live in, and your family history.

You will have to be proactive and have your information ready. Many of these changes are nuanced, and many doctors and nurses do not have time to do the research for you. The only way to take charge of your health is to do your research and voice your concerns.

Times are changing, and relegating all of your medical care to the doctor is no longer good enough. As a person of color, you don't have the luxury of allowing them to apply the same old standard to you, and you have to take charge of your own health.