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Centuries-Old Racist Medical Theory Causes Health Disparities For Black COVID-19 Patients

A welcome sign greets visitors and patients at UC San Diego Health medical fa...

Photo by Tarryn Mento

Above: A welcome sign greets visitors and patients at UC San Diego Health medical facility in Hillcrest, Jan. 10, 2020.

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The COVID-19 Pandemic has highlighted a number of racial health disparities across the nation. But as researchers and physicians continue to study the severe effects of COVID-19 on the body, ... Read more →

Aired: March 10, 2021 | Transcript

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a number of racial health disparities across the nation, revealing how longstanding beliefs and practices in medicine can lead to worse health outcomes for people of color.

As researchers and physicians continue to study the severe effects of COVID-19 on the body, a new report from UC San Diego Health suggests that commonplace tests used to determine lung capacity are rife with archaic and, in some cases, racist components and qualifiers.

“Body proportions, socioeconomic status, and occupational hazards impact lung capacity, and not necessarily a person’s race. These factors should be measured directly, rather than using race as a rough proxy, which is likely biasing clinical reports of COVID-19 recovery,” said Amy Non, genetic anthropologist and associate professor of anthropology at UC San Diego.

She and Dr. Atul Malhotra, research chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at UC San Diego Health joined Midday Edition on Wednesday to discuss how their research highlights clinical bias in the testing and medical assessment of patients of color.

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