Racism and Racial Inequities in Health

Prepared for the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare long-standing racial and ethnic health inequities and disparities across America, including in Massachusetts. Black and Hispanic people in Massachusetts have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 relative to white and Asian people. Specifically, they have been two to three times more likely to contract COVID-19, twice as likely to be hospitalized for it, and three times more likely to die from it than were white and Asian people of similar age. On a national level, the impact of the pandemic has had a similarly adverse impact on the lives of Black and Hispanic people. The pandemic was singularly responsible for eliminating the nation’s progress since 2010 in reducing the life expectancy gap between Black and white people.

The root causes of health inequities among racial and ethnic groups in Massachusetts and nationally, exemplified by the pandemic experience but not limited to it, are multifactorial, complex and persistent. Structural racism is historical and pervasive through our society and social systems. America’s health care system itself has a history of racism that must be acknowledged and addressed in order to better understand present health inequities, resulting disparities in health outcomes, and the continued distrust that people of color have toward its diagnoses and treatments. Structural racism and barriers to accessing health-determining and health care resources lead to direct adverse health impacts and outcomes for people of color.

In a new primer on health disparities in Massachusetts, prepared for the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, Manatt Health provides a foundational resource to broaden the collective understanding of racial and ethnic health inequities and disparities in the commonwealth. The primer presents a data-informed reflection of the racial and ethnic health inequities and disparities Massachusetts residents confront today.

Click here to download the full primer.

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