Patient Safety, Position Statement

Black Lives Matter, Healthcare Inequalities, and the Need for Systemic Change

As of June 5, 2020, the World Health Organization reports that there are more than 1.8 million confirmed cases or COVID-19 and 106,876 deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States.

Black Lives Matter: Higher Risk of Dying from COVID

While WHO statistics are mind-numbing, what they don’t show is that the COVID pandemic has disproportionately affected some American communities more than others. In an analysis by researchers at Yale University and the University of Pittsburgh, they found that:

black people are more than 3.5 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people, and Latino people are nearly twice as likely to die of the virus as white people,

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci (as reported by CNBC), state level data demonstrate that black people are disproportionately dying from COVID-19:

  • In Michigan, black people make up 14% of the state’s population, but account for 41% of coronavirus deaths, according to data released by Michigan’s government. 
  • In Illinois, black people make up 14% of the population, but account for 32.5% of coronavirus deaths, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.
  • In Louisiana, where black people make up about 33% of the population, Gov. John Bel Edwards said in early April they account for more than 70% of the state’s coronavirus deaths, with the majority of these fatalities taking place in New Orleans.
  • In New York City, black and Latino people are twice as likely to die from the virus than their white peers, according to data by the local government.

Black Lives Matter: More Likely to Die from Cardiovascular Disease

Unfortunately, disproportionate deaths from COVID-19 represent just the tip of the iceberg for health disparities affecting black communities.

In a statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) about racial disparities in cardiovascular care, the AHA stated:

The burden of cardiovascular disease in the African American community remains high and is a primary cause of disparities in life expectancy between African Americans and whites. 

Black Lives Matter: Racism is Unacceptable in Any Form

The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and countless other deaths that are unreported in the news are extremely troubling. According to a database compiled by the Washington Post, since January 1, 2015, 1,252 black people have been shot and killed by police. In discussing this data, the Washington Post reported:

Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

Black Lives Matter: The Need for Systemic Change

These disparities, inequities, and structures of violence and racism are completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated any longer. As the Association of Black Cardiologists recently stated:

“Like cardiovascular disease, acts of violence and racism are core causes of psychosocial stress that promote poor well-being and cardiovascular health, especially for communities of color. Given that heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death for communities of color, particularly African-Americans who have the lowest life-expectancy of all racial/ethnic groups living in the United States, we are extremely disturbed by violent acts that cut to the core of the lives of our community. Therefore, along with other leading health organizations, we DENOUNCE incidents of racism and violence that continue to ravage our communities … The profound grief and stress triggered by these events, as well as the consequences for black lives, contribute significantly to cardiovascular risk. Each episode has emotional and physiological effects on individuals and all communities.”

We must act NOW to:

  • Actively be anti-racist.
  • Recognize that racism tears at the fabric of our society and therefore is a societal issue that has a profound impact on ALL communities and aspects of life.
  • Identify and call out racism, whether that it exists in ourselves, our neighbors, or in our leaders.
  • Listen and amplify black voices, like the Association of Black Cardiologists and the National Black Nurses Association.

Patient Care is for All Patients

Patient care is for ALL patients.

The Virtual Patient Care website and chat line that we recently launched with our cardiovascular partners – the American Heart Association, AC Forum, Heart Rhythm Society, StopAfib.org, Mended Hearts, and Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association – is for ALL patients, regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, or transgender status), age, marital status, or political affiliation.

We welcome everybody and provide a free service to ALL patients.

 

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