10 Things You Should Know About Disability, Race, and Health

  1. Disparities in health and life expectancy for minority people with with disabilities reflect broader trends of inequality in the U.S.
  2. People with disabilities confront complex and overlapping stereotypes, assumptions, and false beliefs regarding both disability and race, including when obtaining medical care.
  3. Blacks and Hispanics with disabilities self-report lower health outcomes than do their white peers.
  4. Race can literally determine survival.  In one study, the three factors most closely associated with increased mortality of children with Down syndrome were: a) low birth rate; b) presence of congenital heart defects; and c) race/ethnicity.
  5. Race can play a significant role in the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of a condition, such as in the case of mental illness.  Even when displaying the same symptoms, a Black patient is more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia while a White patient would be labeled with an affective disorder. (See here.)
  6. 48% of Black children with Autism Spectrum Disorders are also diagnosed with intellectual disabilities.  The number falls to 38% for Hispanic children and 25% for Whites. (For more, read this new report.)
  7. Race has no impact whatsoever on the severity of Down syndrome, nor does it determine an individual’s future functioning level.
  8. Among children with Down syndrome, racial disparities in survival emerge after the first year and continue to grow throughout childhood and adolescence.
  9. Lack of medical provider training is “pervasive.”  Research demonstrates the persistence of erroneous beliefs, such as the notion that people with disabilities do not feel pain in typical ways and thus do not need anesthesia.  (See this fantastic report for further information.)
  10. Remember: race is a social construct, not a biological or genetic category.  Race reflects history, power, and social organization, rather than any innate biological difference, role, or predestination.  In turn, racial health disparities for people with and without disabilities are social in nature and can be fixed.

6 thoughts on “10 Things You Should Know About Disability, Race, and Health

    • I don’t recall if it’s in that report or elsewhere, but the general thought is that the disparities are due to negative stereotypes and assumptions about different groups. I’m doing a lot of research on this topic now and can let you know if/when I find something more concrete. I would be curious to see how or if one sees similar racial health disparities regarding disability in Canada or, for that matter, Europe. I wonder how they might stack up against U.S. trends.

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