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COVID-19 amplifies inequalities in healthcare access for ethnic minority and migrant women

In their recent research paper, published in the Feminist Legal Studies journal, Dr Sabrina Germain and Dr Adrienne Yong say existing barriers to medical care for these marginalized women have been intensified by the pandemic.

Doctor reviewing documents

The pandemic has increased inequalities in access to health care. / Photo: Freepik

EurekAlert | CITY UNIVERSITY LONDON

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Leer en español: COVID-19 amplifica las desigualdades en el acceso a la atención médica

Academics from City, University of London, believe that COVID-19 pandemic has amplified existing barriers to healthcare for ethnic minority and migrant women in England.

In their recent paper, COVID-19 Highlighting Inequalities in Access to Healthcare in England: A Case Study of Ethnic Minority and Migrant Women, Senior Law Lecturers, Dr. Sabrina Germain and Dr. Adrienne Yong analyze recent research demonstrating that this marginalized group of women are disproportionately affected by a healthcare system which overlooks the intersectional barriers generated by being a woman from a migrant or ethnic minority background.

The academics also draw attention to how the pandemic has amplified these barriers and expose the manner in which the pandemic has affected the allocation of healthcare resources in England, leading to the prioritization of COVID-19 patients, thereby suspending the equal access to healthcare services approach.

Their paper goes on to explore poorer health outcomes for women in ethnic minority and migrant communities that the disruption in provision does not solely account for, by looking at underlying barriers to access that have been amplified by the pandemic. Dr. Germain and Dr. Yong reflect on racialized medical perceptions, gendered cultural norms - including information barriers and stigma - and specific legal barriers.

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The authors reveal that though there are no specific policies or guidance on healthcare for vulnerable migrant women, a feminist critique of barriers to accessing healthcare, "demonstrates specific barriers for women aggravated by their race and cultural associations with race, or having migrant status and being subject to hostile immigration law. We argue that these existing barriers to accessing services have been reinforced, and in some situations deepened, by the pandemic."

Dr. Germain and Dr. Yong also highlight how racialized medical perceptions can impact the judgment of medical professionals, and that these biases are potentially heightened in critical situations where they have to act urgently and instinctively such as during a pandemic:

"There is evidence that medical training received by healthcare professionals perpetuates unconscious biases against marginalized groups, prejudicing future diagnoses of illnesses as well as courses of treatment. Ethnic minority and migrant women are more vulnerable to these perceptions because of prejudices and racist beliefs, such as having higher pain thresholds or a greater ability to cope with illness They are often also undermined when voicing their healthcare needs."

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