Racial Disparities in Access to Healthcare: A StoryMap

During the extended winter break, I had the opportunity to work as an Action/Research Team fellow for the Harward Center. Our overall goal was to create resources to build the capacity of Bates students for informed and ethical engagement in the local off-campus community. We worked in issue-based teams that ranged from voter engagement to immigration to K-12 education. I was part of the public health team, along with Emma Johnston and Andrew Murdoch. We each created our own project using the StoryMaps platform, but we worked as a team to share ideas and resources and to encourage each other as the work progressed.

I chose to focus my specific project on racial disparities in access to healthcare. I was excited to research this topic. I wrote my Economics thesis on the differential impact of COVID-19 across demographics and wanted to continue researching how racial disparities are present in healthcare. Throughout the United States, institutions and systems are biased and skewed to serve white people, and healthcare is no exception. Healthcare has historically been weaponized against marginalized populations, and today, implicit and explicit bias still limits access and care.

As I started work on this project, I was taken aback by how extensive my topic is. There is no beginning and no end. In a four-week project I was not going to become an expert in this field, but I did want to produce a resource that would provide Bates students with a starting point to work in this field in a well-informed way. The StoryMap I created begins with broad strokes, providing historical examples of the race-based atrocities that have occurred in healthcare and then highlighting specific ways that access to healthcare continues to be hindered. Lastly, I provide examples of how these factors have played a role in the current pandemic–specifically in immigrants’ struggles to get quality healthcare. In Maine, these two realities intersect because the majority of the immigrant population is Black. COVID-19 has disproportionately infected the Black population in America for a variety of reasons; combined with systemic barriers that prevent immigrants from accessing healthcare, Maine has one of the highest rates of COVID-based racial disparity in the nation.

I hope that by bringing to light some of the ways racial disparities show up in healthcare, both nationally and in Maine, my StoryMap will help Bates students be better informed when they engage with public health issues and organizations in the wider Lewiston community. There is still much to research about racial disparities in our healthcare system, and COVID-19 has exposed the unfortunate truth that our nation’s healthcare system is far from equitable. It is imperative to improve healthcare’s accessibility and quality for Black people and immigrants, not only in Lewiston but across the country. Hopefully this resource can inform and inspire Bates students to help make America’s healthcare more equitable. 

– James Calhoon ’21