Healthcare Racism And Discrimination In Australia

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Healthcare Racism and Discrimination in Australia

Healthcare Racism and Discrimination in Australia


There is no dispute that Aboriginal health in Australia is both poor and very much worse than that of non-Aboriginal people, and their life expectancy at birth is about 21 years less for men and 19 years less for women. Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males, 6.8% die in infancy, compared with 1% for the rest of the population. For females the figures are 6.7% and 0.8%. This is not news. The question is how to improve this situation. The way forward that we propose is recognising and addressing institutional racism. This would provide a framework for improving Aboriginal health. We believe, however, that acceptance of the need to address such racism can only come about through building a more compassionate and decent society. To suggest that healthcare in Australia is institutionally racist may be confronting for some, but we argue not only that it is institutionally racist, but, more importantly, that such racism represents one of the greatest barriers to improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We will also indicate what might be done to overcome this institutional racism and improve Aboriginal health(Wilkes, 2002, 13).


Racism establishes separate and independent barriers to health care. Despite significant health status disparities, individuals are denied equal access to quality health care on the basis of race. To understand the impact of racism on health and health care there must be a developed knowledge base. The country with the most developed body of knowledge related to racism and health care is the United States. In the US, Whites are three times more likely to undergo bypass surgery than non-Whites. Non-White patients seeking admission to nursing homes experience longer delays before placement than White patients. Doctors are less likely to recommend breast cancer screening for Hispanic women than for White women. Non-White pneumonia patients receive fewer hospital services than White patients. Finally, poor urban Black and Hispanic neighborhoods average 24 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 69 physicians per 100,000 for poor White communities.

This denial of health care occurs not only as overt racism, but also as a result of institutional racism. The research from the United States clearly demonstrates that within a country, racial barriers to quality health care may manifest themselves in a number of ways including: disproportionate lack of economic access to health care, barriers to hospitals and health care institutions, barriers to physicians and other providers, disparities in medical treatment, discriminatory health care policies and practices, lack of language and culturally competent care, disparities based on the impact of the intersection of race and gender, lack of data and standardized collection methods, inadequate inclusion in health care research, commercialization of health care, and the disintegration of traditional medicine. These factors contribute to "racially disadvantaged" groups having disparities in health status, unequal access to health care services, insufficient participation in health research or exploitation in health research and insufficient ...
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