Lethal Disparity: Why Are Black Patients Dying More Than Whites?

By: Jason Gibson
Blog Category: Race and Healthcare

A new study conducted by Justin Dimick and the University of Michigan is trying to help us understand why black patients generally have a higher mortality rate after major surgeries than their white counterparts. A popular theory is that due to racial disparities, black patients are more likely to receive care at poor quality hospitals.  Surprisingly, the authors of this study discovered that black patients are more likely to live near high-quality hospitals with lower mortality rates.  However, these patients tend to forego these hospitals and instead choose to receive care at lower quality hospitals.  But why would anyone make this choice?

Perhaps it’s cultural.  It’s human nature for people to gravitate to those who are similar.  This theory could also be supported by the fact that doctors who work in predominately black communities continue to make referrals to traditional “minority-serving” hospitals.  Another theory is that many of these minority-serving hospitals largely treat those who receive government assistance such as Medicaid.

Whatever the cause of this disparity, this will be one of the many tests of which to grade the Affordable Care Act.  The Act, which is being slowly implemented throughout the country, was designed to address not only racial disparities, but disparities among the impoverished and uninsured as well.  If the disparity in mortality is connected to the uninsured, then we should see a positive shift these statistics.  However, if not, then perhaps the focus should be more on re-educating both the minority communities and health care professionals.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


Asahi Shimbun, Racial Disparities In Health Care: Justin Dimick and Coauthors’ June Health Affairs Study, Health Affairs Blog (Jun. 4th, 2013, 2:47 PM), http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2013/06/04/racial-disparities-in-health-care-justin-dimick-and-coauthors-june-health-affairs-study/.

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