By: Bianca Walker
Both structural and cultural competency have an overwhelming effect on cardiovascular health and disease research. The textbook definition of structural competency can be described as the ability of health care providers to appreciate how health problems, diseases, attitudes toward a patient or population, and health systems are influenced by social determinants of health. For example, in these past few months, research has shown how COVID has affected more African Americans than any other ethnic group. But when looking at these results, it is essential to look at the underlying causes of why African Americans are susceptible to this virus similar to how they are more susceptible to cardiovascular failure. It is the combination of other underlying health conditions and social determinants of health that make COVID so deadly for African Americans. Additionally, many health care providers need to take time to understand how the lack of health care, transportation, funding, and other inequalities all have a role in their patient’s overall health. Taking the time out to look at them not just someone who will make them money, but a real person who has struggles that affect their everyday life can have a significant difference in their patient’s care.
In my research for my summer media project, I noticed a pattern of African American women being more susceptible to Preeclampsia (hypertension during pregnancy) than other ethnic groups. Like many other diseases especially cardiovascular disease, this can be due to their underlying health problems before pregnancy or simply because of their zip code. In a perfect system, these social factors would not determine the care that one would be provided, but unfortunately in reality, they do. For my project, my group will be conveying the various actions that women can take before they are pregnant to reduce their likelihood of developing this form of hypertension. These include encouraging to go to the doctor for a check-up if possible before pregnancy and choosing their doctor wisely to ensure they have the best care. Unfortunately, it is a reality that many of the deaths that come from African American pregnancies are due to the lack of healthcare they receive while at the hospital, especially during early postpartum. This is a direct result from the lack of structural competency within health care providers and the health care system continues without accountability. An article from the JAMA Network states that the U.S. healthcare system needs a new structurally competency report and a new set of board examinations. Creating doctors who already have a background and understanding in recognizing the many inequitable factors that goes into a patient’s health can improve the quality of the system overall. A cultural shift in the mindsets of healthcare providers is one of the many steps that need to be taken to ensure that everyone receives the equitable healthcare.