“The United States is consumed by two seemingly distinct tragedies,” Emma Betuel wrote for Inverse. “A pandemic has killed over 100,000 Americans. Meanwhile, the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others has crystallized the persistent threat that racism poses to the health of Black Americans, leading to countrywide protests. However, viewing these events as unrelated is inaccurate, experts say —- they’re actually two sides of the same coin. During a pandemic, police violence comes at an elevated cost. In part, this is because police violence actively undermines the medical system. Sirry Alang is an assistant professor of sociology, health, medicine, and society at Lehigh University. Alang’s January 2020 study demonstrates that police violence reshapes trust for a medical system that’s already rife with inequality. In a sample of 4,389 people, respondents who had negative encounters with police consistently reported higher levels of mistrust of medical institutions. A negative encounter ranged from being cursed at, to threatened with arrest, or other forms of violence like use of pepper spray, stun guns, or actual guns.“The study looks at how police brutality affects mental health — not just by increasing rates of mental illness, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or links to injury, disability or death — but at how our relationships with the police shift our relationships with other institutions, like medical institutions,” Alang tells Inverse.This is against a backdrop of violence: Excessive use of police force was the sixth leading cause of death for men, according to a 2019 study. Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police in their lifetime than white men are. Inverse spoke to Alang about how policing and medicine are deeply intertwined, what that means in the context of Covid-19, and how medical institutions can begin to rebuild trust.” Emma Betuel, “A ripple effect of police violence could extend the Covid-19 pandemic,” Inverse.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded... More by Jeanne Pinder