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Closing the racial disparity gap in hospice care

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Posted at 3:22 PM, May 10, 2022

Healthcare shortages are shining a light on disparities within hospice care.

Nationwide, data shows Black families utilize hospice care at a lower rate than white families even though they are more likely to have many of the conditions common to it, such as cancer and heart disease. A study from Duke Health suggests it’s due, in part, to a lack of knowledge about hospice, a general mistrust of the health care system, and the small number of African Americans working in hospices across the country.

Dave Turner, a lifelong entrepreneur, started St. Croix Hospice in Detroit in 2008. It's the city’s first Black-owned hospice center. Outside of initiatives with historically Black colleges and medical schools, St. Croix has focused on hiring Black hospice nurses.

Nationwide, 11% of hospice registered nurses are Black, but at St. Croix that figure stands at 65%, including all three people in administrative positions.

“There are major trust issues, and I might say understandable trust issues. You know, unfortunately, we don’t have the greatest history in this country of valuing life,” Turner said. “And so, when you don’t trust the system, and if the person who comes in to explain it to you doesn’t understand what your life experience has been like, you’re going to be apprehensive.”

Kelly Dean lost her father in August 2021. Six months later, her mother died. In both cases, her parents were cared for by St. Croix nurses.

Dean said she had a sense of comfort with St. Croix because her parents were receiving care from qualified people who looked like them.