The Arts, Health, and Race

Booker Prize winner British author Bernardine Evaristo

Bernardine Evaristo’s novel Girl, Woman, Other is just being published in the United States — after being awarded the U.K.’s Booker Prize last month (an honor shared with Margaret Atwood‘s The Testaments).

“I think it’s important to name us according to how we experience the world. So we — black women for example, black people are — we are experiencing the world as people who are racialized, right. We are experiencing the world as people who are considered female, or if our sexuality is homosexual, whatever. So I think it’s important for us to name the thing that we do. So I’m not at all squeamish, actually, about identifying myself as a black British woman writer, and identifying this book as about black British women (primarily, because most of them are) because that’s what I’m doing. I take inspiration from Toni Morrison who, many years ago, would say: Yeah, I’m an African American women writer, and that’s the perspective from which I write, and there is nothing limiting about that. … Being black British is being as diverse as any other demographic in society.”

The world’s largest ever study into the impact and scalability of arts interventions on physical and mental health has been launched by King’s College London and UCL, supported by a £2m award from Wellcome Trust.

“Philomena Gibbons, Deputy Director for Culture & Society at Wellcome says: ‘There are many examples which show the impact of embedding arts interventions in mainstream clinical care. But if we are to build up a good evidence base, and develop effective implementation and evaluation models, we need to enable researchers, cultural organisations and clinical care providers to explore this area on a bigger scale.’”

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 14: Dr. Gloria Wilder, one of many health care providers who haven’t been paid for seeing and treating Medicaid patients, follows up on patient Steven Osborne, 4, right, who was sent to the emergency room the day before for dehydration, on May, 14, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

It has been widely reported that medical care professionals often display bias and give inadequate care when it comes to African-American patients, but a new study shows that racial bias may keep ill Black people from even being seen by a doctor.

“The problem was the algorithm was built to predict who’s going to cost money next year, not who’s going to need health care,” lead researcher Dr. Ziad Obermeyer said in an interview with The AP, adding that updating the software could more than double the number of Black patients who are enrolled in programs.”

A widely used software program that helps guide care for millions of patients is flawed by unintentional racial bias that leads to blacks getting passed over for special care, according to a new study.

“The software predicts costs rather than sickness. It is used by U.S. insurers and hospitals to direct higher-cost patients into health care programs designed to help them stay on medications or out of the hospital.

Whites tend to be higher-cost patients even when they’re not as sick as blacks. The study found the software regularly suggested letting healthier white patients into health care risk management programs ahead of blacks who were less healthy because those white patients were more costly.”

“The bias was detected in the health services company Optum’s algorithm, but researchers say it is only one data-driven service of many that perpetuates disparities in medical treatment. An estimated 200 million people are affected each year by similar tools that are used in hospital networks, government agencies and health care systems nationwide, the study noted.”

“Optum’s algorithm harbored this undetected bias despite its intentional exclusion of race. This is because inequity is baked into algorithms when they’re built on biased data, Jha said.”