NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Recent protests sweeping the nation have put a spotlight on racial inequality - inequalities that many say go beyond, social or economic issues and into public health.
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, CEO of Nashville General Hospital Dr. Joseph Webb says it isn't surprising that African Americans are disproportionately affected by the virus. In fact, African Americans are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 compared to white Americans.
African Americans deal with chronic illnesses at a higher rate. Medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes, conditions that are more prevalent in African American communities, make fighting COVID-19 more difficult.
Dr. Webb says this shines a light on a bigger issue of systematic racism that often leads to health care disparities.
"The outcomes of African American race to health disparities has to do with social determinants of health that are considered as fundamental causes of health disparities," said Dr. Webb.
Dr. Webb says Nashville General Hospital has a few programs put into place to battle this reality. For example, they've opened a food pharmacy. The Food Pharmacy addresses food insecurity of Nashville General Hospital patients through the provision of no-cost food totes of fresh produce and shelf-stable food.
"Food insecurity hits the under-served community so the best interest is to provide them with food services so they don't get sick and come to the emergency room," Dr. Webb said.
Their team also went into the neighborhood to conduct nearly COVID-19 tests in Metro Public Housing developments. Many residents don't have transportation.
With all this said, Dr. Webb says more can still be done. He says if we want to address health care disparities within African American communities we have to address social factors at play - factors like access to health care, pay wage, and incarceration rate.
"The likelihood of African Americans making less than their white counterparts is very high," Dr. Webb explained, "that feed into other areas, other things like housing or transportation. This creates a real complexity for the African American community."