Discrimination in healthcare making people sicker: report
Discrimination does not only take place in the housing market, education, and workplace in the Netherlands but also in healthcare, national expertise center Pharos concluded in a study. Patients with a diverse backgrounds often feel treated differently or not taken seriously because of their appearance, religion, or name. And this can impact both their mental and physical health, researchers found, Pointer reports.
One of the people Pharos interviewed was born in the Netherlands, but her parents are of Surinamese Hindu descent. She was treated differently during her breast cancer treatment because of her skin color, she told the researchers. "When my boyfriend and I got the oncologist, he greeted me. He then turned directly to my white boyfriend to ask how I was doing," she said. "It really made me feel that I couldn't speak for myself as a woman of color, that he thought my boyfriend was my interpreter."
Discrimination in healthcare makes people sicker, Pharos researcher Tessa van Loenen said to Pointer. "The stress that discrimination produces can cause additional physical complaints like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and elevated blood pressure." People may also end up avoiding going to the doctor for fear of being discriminated against.
Rabin Baldewsingh, the National Coordinator against Discrimination and Racism, wants a broad investigation into the extent of discrimination in the Dutch healthcare system. "I am shocked by this. It touches me deeply," he said to Pointer in response to the Pharos study. "The signals I get about this is that people with a diverse background are starting to avoid healthcare. That is very disturbing. That not only means that they do not receive the care they should receive, but also that they run the risk of long-term illness or death."
Baldewsingh is working on a longer-term plan with annual actions to combat discrimination and racism, which he will present to the Cabinet around the summer. The theme of discrimination in healthcare will be high on the agenda, he said to the program.