PBS Hysteria: ‘Research Reveals Depths of Racial and Ethnic Bias in Health Care’

Political News

Thursday’s edition of the PBS NewsHour ran a segment which appeared online under the exaggerated headline, “Research reveals depths of racial and ethnic bias in health care.” It’s part of “Race Matters,” yet another regular PBS segment aimed at a particular wing of the progressive movement, courtesy of your tax dollars.

Host Geoff Bennett: We have long known about racial and ethnic bias in health care, but now we’re getting some firsthand knowledge of how pervasive it is from people within that system through the largest study of its kind. The report was based on interviews with doctors, nurses, dentists and mental health workers. William Brangham breaks down the study’s findings, part of our ongoing coverage of Race Matters.

Reporter William Brangham interviewed Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, “senior vice president for advancing health equity at The Commonwealth Fund.”

One hint about the left-wing nature of this enterprise came from the source — the actual study hosted at The Commonwealth Fund, a foundation with a long liberal reputation, was tucked under the subhead “Advancing Health Equity,” “equity” being a left-wing buzzword. Another clue was the blunt way Commonwealth put its far-left finger on the survey scale:

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The survey oversampled Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) health care workers (n=450), Black health care workers (n=549), and Latino health care workers (n=550). It also included a robust white health care workers sample (n=1,266).

Brangham summarized the study by claiming “nearly half of health care workers in the U.S. say racism against patients is a major problem.”

His guest, Zephyrin of the Commonwealth Fund, outlined the slanted findings:

Zephyrin: ….Previous research really tells us that racism and discrimination impact health care outcomes, especially for people of color. This study goes a step further, really spotlighting the voice of health care workers who have witnessed racism and discrimination and also experienced it themselves….

William Brangham: One of the more striking disparities in this was the perspective of black health care workers. And I’m going to put this graphic up. While half of all health care workers said doctors are more accepting of white patients advocating for themselves compared to Black patients, it was 70 percent of black workers who said this. I mean, that kind of perspective just has to really leap out at you.

The actual survey results, as opposed to PBS’s spin, revealed vague, leading questions that predictably got the Commonwealth Fund the results they wanted, the ones Brangham found striking:

“Medical providers can be more accepting of White patients advocating or speaking up for themselves than patients of color doing so.”

Even with that leading question, the results weren’t overwhelming: 49% of all health care workers surveyed agreed.

His guest used the dubious study to speak out for more useless DEI-style measures.

Zephyrin: ….training is going to be very critical, not just anti-bias training, but also training recognizing that discrimination can be a game changer in health care, that it can impact quality of health care outcomes, and also be able to recognize the signs of discrimination.

One suggested solution: “Review what vendors a health care provider currently uses to support more businesses owned by people of color.” Seriously?

Other concerns boiled down not to racism per se but to a language barrier, which could be mitigated by legal immigrants learning English….but don’t expect liberals to be arguing that anytime soon.

This segment was brought to you in part by Consumer Cellular.

A transcript is available, click “Expand.”

PBS NewsHour

2/2/24

7:33:50 p.m. (ET)

Geoff Bennett: We have long known about racial and ethnic bias in health care, but now we’re getting some firsthand knowledge of how pervasive it is from people within that system through the largest study of its kind. The report was based on interviews with doctors, nurses, dentists and mental health workers.

William Brangham breaks down the study’s findings, part of our ongoing coverage of Race Matters.

William Brangham: In this study from The Commonwealth Fund, nearly half of health care workers in the U.S. say racism against patients is a major problem, and equal numbers report that they have personally witnessed discrimination against patients in their workplace.

Employees at facilities that mostly serve Black or Latino patients reported higher instances of discrimination.

To expand on the study’s findings and why it matters, I’m joined by one of its co-authors. Dr. Laurie Zephyrin is senior vice president for advancing health equity at The Commonwealth Fund.

Dr. Zephyrin, so good to have you on the “NewsHour.”

So half of health care workers say racism is a major problem, they have seen it in their own workplaces. I’m curious why you chose to look at this issue from this perspective.

Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, The Commonwealth Fund: Thank you, and thanks for having me.

Previous research really tells us that racism and discrimination impact health care outcomes, especially for people of color. This study goes a step further, really spotlighting the voice of health care workers who have witnessed racism and discrimination and also experienced it themselves.

In terms of why health workers, health care workers, understanding what health care workers are experiencing and what they need from their employers and colleagues to address discrimination is really critical to successful and sustainable change. Health care workers are a key part of the health care system, and they can be a part of the solution.

We do know that the perspective of patients and providers are incredibly important, but for this study, we decided to focus on health care workers because they’re on the ground. They impact the day-to-day care of people. And health care workers are living and breathing in the health care system every day.

They really experience the realities of what it is to provide health care firsthand.

William Brangham: One of the more striking disparities in this was the perspective of Black health care workers. And I’m going to put this graphic up.

While half of all health care workers said doctors are more accepting of white patients advocating for themselves compared to Black patients, it was 70 percent of Black workers who said this. I mean, that kind of perspective just has to really leap out at you.

Dr. Laurie Zephyrin: Yes, it does. It does leap out at you.

Where you come from is important. Diverse experiences are incredibly important. The data are clear just in general on the importance of a culturally diverse work force. It has a really profound impact on the health care system, on the patients served. I’m sure you have seen the data about diverse work force. It can address cultural needs, language needs, improve communication, improve patient status satisfaction.

And there also may be more awareness of the impacts of discrimination and bias because of lived experience.

William Brangham: There was also similar disparities when it came to language differences, with over 70 percent of Latino workers saying that non-English-speaking patients just don’t get the same kind of care as English-speaking patients. Do these disparities, do you believe, actually impact patient outcomes?

Dr. Laurie Zephyrin: There are data that support the linkage between discrimination and impact on quality of care.

So we do know that there are significant disparities and inequities and outcomes, whether we’re talking about maternal mortality and the crisis we’re experiencing in this country or we’re talking about inequities in life expectancy. We do know that where you live, work, play impacts your outcomes, right?

And there’s impacts of discrimination and racism on the social determinants of health. So we certainly have data that support this linkage. And to your point earlier, for people that have lived experience, whether it’s race, ethnicity, language, other aspects of culture, there just may be more of an understanding, more of a recognition, more of a sensitivity to witnessing and discrimination within the health care system.

William Brangham: There was also an interesting generational divide, with older health care workers not seeing quite as striking a level of crisis as younger workers did.

What do you attribute that to?

Dr. Laurie Zephyrin: Yes, we didn’t ask why in the study. And so you don’t know what you don’t know.

But a few things come to mind in terms of why younger people, younger health care workers are seeing more. This could reflect a generational shift in health care workers being more equity-oriented and younger workers who recognize equity as a key component of health care outcomes.

So we need more research to clarify these generational differences. And more research could be potentially important to inform efforts to really prevent younger health care workers from leaving the profession.

William Brangham: On that issue, you talked with workers about what they would like to see done to make things better. What were the sort of general principles they articulated?

Dr. Laurie Zephyrin: Creating a safe reporting environment was one that came up as crucial.

So, the study found that witnessing discrimination creates stress and also that helped care workers fear retaliation. So having a safe reporting environment that not only supports reporting, but also helps with reconciliation, is really important as well.

I think education also remains crucial to engendering reform, and training is going to be very critical, not just anti-bias training, but also training recognizing that discrimination can be a game changer in health care, that it can impact quality of health care outcomes, and also be able to recognize the signs of discrimination.

William Brangham: All right, Dr. Laurie Zephyrin at The Commonwealth Fund, thank you so much for being here.

Dr. Laurie Zephyrin: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

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