Question: Racial health disparity has plagued America since its foundation, how have health disparities evolved, and just how have they prevailed through COVID-19? 

Project description:  American medicine has advanced tremendously throughout the years. There are new developments everyday, and now these advancements are needed now more than ever in the midst of COVID-19 that has swept our world by storm. However, when we look at all our groundbreaking medical achievements throughout history, like the treatment of fistulas in women by the “father of modern gynecology”, James Marion Sims, we tend to overlook the costs because of the benefits they had for others. Great medical advancements in women’s reproductive health in the 19th century came through the experiments James Marion Sims conducted, but who were the women behind his research? Those women were enslaved Black women who had experiments conducted on their bodies without anesthesia, and often without their informed consent. The many black women who had to endure such unethical experiments, have been written into history without voices, without names, while James Marion Sims was honored with a monument that had not been taken down until recent years. While such extreme medical experiments may no longer be conducted in this way, health disparities are still far-reaching in our communities in America today with the COVID -19 pandemic infecting minority communities at much faster and alarming rates than white communities. As authors Leana S. Wen and Nakisa B. Sadeghi mention in their article, Health disparities during COVID-19 reflect important patterns of inequity. First, minority communities have a high likelihood of contracting the virus by living in urban areas and disproportionately working in higher-risk environments. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a greater number of African American workers are unable to work from home, compared to white workers. (Wen & Sadhegi, 2020) With discrimination constantly finding ways to evolve through each new age throughout centuries of history, it is the responsibility of each new generation to pull it out from its deep rooted history if we want to see change. Everyone deserves adequate healthcare, everyone deserves to be respected, and everyone deserves to have their story told. 

 Format: Historical Op-ed 

Secondary sources

Skloot, Rebecca, 1972-, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Broadway Paperbacks, 2011.

       Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks provides a clear example of how women of color throughout history have had their bodies exploited for the sake of medical advancements, and have had a severe lack of equity in how they are treated by health care professionals. I plan to use this book as a main resource for illustrating a more personal and detailed account of how health disparities affected people of color in the United States in fairly more recent times in American history

  •  Holland, Brynn, 2017-, “The ‘Father of Modern Gynecology’ Performed Shocking Experiments on Slaves”

Holland’s article provides important insight into the medical breakthroughs of the 19th century that changed the view of women’s reproductive health that had been otherwise seen as taboo, and not given enough attention to. However, not every medical success story has a clean start. I plan to use this resource to give a further voice to the enslaved women of the 19th century who had their bodies exploited without proper care, and to provide further context into what health disparities looked like before what we know them to be in our modern times. 

Primary sources:

    Pena-Tajima, Renee, director 2015, No Más Bebés 

This film allows the stories of a small group out of thousands of Mexican immigrant women share their accounts of reproductive injustice. During the 1960’s and 70’s countless immigrant women were sterilized while giving birth often through coercion by physicians who took advantage of these frightened and vulnerable women who often could not speak English. I plan to use this source to further understand the point of view of a survivor of reproductive injustice to further illustrate the importance of addressing health disparities in America in the modern day.

U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Public Health Service. Final Report of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Ad Hoc Advisory Panel. [Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office]. 1972. HE 20.2:T 87

This source provides important information about the final phases of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, and goes into the effects it had on the multitudes of the bodies of black males who were exploited for their bodies for over 40 years in these medical trials under the guise that they would be provided free medical care. I intend to use this source to focus on how racial health disparities affected men of color during this time in America, and analyze the effects these trials had on the bodies of these men. 

– Artiga, Samantha, Corallo, Bradley, Pham Olivia “Racial Disparities in COVID-19: Key Findings from Available Data and Analysis”, 2020

This source provides great insight into how COVID-19 has ravaged through communities of color by showing the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on them. My purpose in using this source will be to analyze the information presented in the article, and through my analysis show the importance of addressing health disparities in order to move forward as an American society especially with things like technology and social media we could be using to spread the word about important issues like these.