Discrimination Making You Sick?

Can discrimination make you sick? Apparently, it can.

There are troubling differences in cancer survival rates between groups based on their race or ethnicity. Part of the solution, of course, is to make sure all groups have equal access to care. Eliminating barriers to care would help to close the cancer survival and mortality gaps, but that won't completely solve the problem. The quality of care received also plays a significant part in health outcomes-how a doctor interacts with a patient, not just the treatment offered to a patient-can affect that patient's life expectancy.

So what happens when a patient is, or feels, discriminated against? According to a recent Stanford University study, perceived discrimination influences health outcomes. In other words, if you feel you've been discriminated against, it affects you.

Women who perceived some form of discrimination from their health care providers were a third less likely to have a mammogram and half as likely to be screened for colorectal cancer. Men who perceived discrimination were 70 percent less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer, despite having a regular source of care. The longer cancer screening is delayed, the worse the potential outcome-making this literally a matter of life and death. 

Despite advances in cancer detection, treatment, and research, people of color are still more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at later stages and more likely to die from the disease. For communities of color, breast and colorectal cancer are two of the top three cancers that are diagnosed and cause death.

As we find new ways to detect and treat cancer, we must make sure that everyone benefits from those advances. And that means finding new ways to detect and treat another deadly disease: discrimination.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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