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Day 5: Racism and Bias in Healthcare

Thank you for taking this challenge! If this is your first day of joining us for the 14-Day Equity Challenge, welcome. If you are returning after previous engagement with the challenge, nice work! We are glad you are here.

This challenge is designed to push you out of your comfort zone, think critically about difficult topics, and grow in your understanding of the ways people and systems perpetuate (and have the power to eliminate) racism. We’re excited to invite you to this opportunity to dive deeper into racial equity and social justice.

View other challenges: Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8Day 9Day 10Day 11Day 12Day 13Day 14

Day 5: Racism and Bias in Healthcare

Healthcare programs, facilities, and workers are here to help us take care of ourselves and our families and lead longer, healthier lives. Unfortunately, the care we receive may not always be equal. For people of color, healthcare is often less accessible, less affordable, and of lower quality than that for White people—and this is nothing new.

U.S. healthcare has a long history of perpetrating discriminatory practices and medical malpractice against people of color. For example, during the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, healthcare providers intentionally allowed untreated syphilis to progress in black men long after penicillin became widely available as a treatment. Patients, under false pretenses of being treated, often suffered with the disease until death while doctors observed the progression of the disease. Instances like this one are far too common across U.S. history, and they continue to give minoritized communities reason to distrust the medical industry.

Today, people of color face huge disparities in health and access to healthcare. Discriminatory practices, implicit biases, misinformation, distrust in medical professionals, and racial trauma are just a few examples of obstacles to quality care. It will take intentional advocacy, greater representation, and cultural education to address inequities as deeply rooted in our history as these ones.

Today’s challenge shares more about barriers people of color experience in accessing quality health care and what can be done to change this.

If you have…

Read this article
examining disparities in how medical professionals perceive pain

Watch this history lesson
on the causes for medical distrust in black communities

Read this article
on the racial disparities in infant mortality rates


Once you have completed today’s challenge, we encourage you to take a moment to reflect.

  • How did the challenge make you feel?
  • What is something you learned?
  • Did you notice anything about yourself after taking the challenge?
  • Consider sharing this new awareness with a friend or group to help deepen your understanding of the information.

Share your thoughts on the challenge online using #YWCAEquityChallenge