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Dire Racial Inequities in Healthcare Impact Early Learning

Posted by Social Venture Partners Portland

Edited by Sarah Cohen-Doherty, Community Impact Manager  

The murder of George Floyd, amongst others, has instigated a national conversation about racial inequities that have been present for centuries.  At the same time, we have witnessed how the COVID-19 epidemic and entrenched, systemic racism in our country has caused disproportionate devastation for communities of color.

The fact that some communities do not receive the same quality of healthcare because of the color of their skin may not be shocking, but it understandably elicits humanitarian outrage. Like education, we cannot tolerate this inequity. Bahia Overton, Executive Director of Black Parent Initiative, recently shared a personal story about her cousin who was diagnosed with COVID-19… and the insufferable process that her family experienced to receive the care that was readily offered to white patients. 

As COVID cases continue to rise, more studies are coming out showing the disproportionate rate that people of color are not only diagnosed with the disease, but are dying from it. Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies reviewed known cases and showed that people of color are not only experiencing higher mortality rates, but are dying at younger ages. 

Racial health disparities have existed for centuries. Nearly a year ago, long before the pandemic shed a brighter light on this systemic issue, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver took a look at biases in healthcare. It serves as a good primer to outline the historical context for the challenges we face.

Research has clearly shown that health is integral to children’s positive development and education. The Economic Opportunity Institute examined the link between early childhood and health, stating, “Many of the risks for the diseases of adult life (e.g. heart disease) are, in part, shaped by learning, coping, and decision-making skills that are set in the earliest years of life. These skills determine performance in the school system and set children onto life pathways that in turn, affect their health and well-being over time.”

So what can we do about it? For starters, share this research with your friends and family. Help them understand the barriers that communities of color face—whether it be the importance of equitable access to quality health care, or to a trauma-informed, culturally responsive early learning environment. The more we openly discuss the issue of race, the more we can join together and dismantle systems of oppression. 

For more information on racial disparities in healthcare and early childhood education: 

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