One barrier to receiving routine medical care is a lack of trust from patients who may have had experiences with racism and discrimination in the past. This erosion of trust results in an unequal impact on people of color and other marginalized groups. These disparities contribute to a lack of health insurance coverage, access to medical services and poorer health outcomes among specific populations.
Ross Jones, MD, medical director of UF Health Jacksonville’s Community Health Program, the Elizabeth G. Means Center and the Total Care Clinic, offers a clinical perspective on significant health disparities affecting local communities.
“A lot of our patients do have that historical knowledge of racism and mistrust in our health system,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, some of our patients experienced it recently. Even before the pandemic, they were not coming to the doctor because they did not trust us as a system. When we are in a crisis, and people are even more reluctant to trust new information and things are changing every day, they are even more hesitant.”
According to a report from the Century Foundation on racism, inequality and health care for African Americans, the majority of Black and Hispanic areas are more likely to lack hospitals and other health care providers due to residential segregation.
The UF Health Total Care Clinic – Jacksonville provides specialty care for patients through the City Contract Program, which provides medical and prescription assistance. A team of doctors, nurses and other providers are committed to maintaining and improving patients’ health through primary care, mental health services, medication management and health education. Jones believes the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the importance of rebuilding trust among patients and physicians.
“Our responsibility as physicians is to make sure that people are healthy before a pandemic happens,” Jones said. “It is critical to establish a trusting relationship between patients and primary care physicians to take care of their bodies appropriately and get the treatment that they need.”