The Impact Of Oprah’s Documentary On Racial Health Inequality

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 16: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Oprah … [+] Winfrey attends the EE British Academy Film Awards 2014 at The Royal Opera House on February 16, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

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Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions partnered with The Smithsonian Channel on a documentary called The Color Of Care, which looks at the racial disparity in the United States healthcare system. The documentary exposed several inconsistencies that were illuminated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working to ultimately be viewed as a call-to-action, the piece pushes for the positive upheaval of the healthcare systems to serve all races throughout the U.S. The doc features numerous first-hand accounts of people who lost friends and family to COVID as well as medical frontline workers coupled with expert interviews and large swathes of statistical data presented to further prove the issues present.

During the release period of the film, Oprah said, “At the height of the pandemic, I read something that stopped me in my tracks,”

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 27: (L-R) Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University Irving … [+] Medical Center Dr. Hetty Cunningham, Keith Gambrell, Oscar-nominated, Emmy award-winning filmmaker & director of “The Color of Care” Yance Ford, Regional Director at the Department of Health and Human Services & founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium Dr. Ala Stanford and Senior medical correspondent for CBS News Dr. Tara Narula participate in a discussion panel during “The Color of Care” Premiere Screening Event at National Museum Of African American History & Culture on April 27, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for Smithsonian Channel)

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“I read a story about Gary Fowler, a Black man who died in his home because no hospital would treat him despite his Covid-19 symptoms. As we continued to hear how the racial disparities in our country were exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic, I felt something needed to be done. This film is my way of doing something, with the intention that the stories we share serve as both a warning and foster a deeper understanding of what changes need to take place to better serve us all.”

Along with the programming, the project also launched a far-reaching campaign to start pivotal discussions, with actionable conclusions, with policymakers, medical and nursing schools, and healthcare workers to identify the issue as a genuine national crisis that urgently needs solutions.

“People of color have long endured the fatal consequences of racial health disparities, and the Covid-19 pandemic made these inequalities plain for all to see,” says James Blue, head of Smithsonian Channel and SVP of MTV Docs. “I hope our documentary event, The Color of Care, will be a catalyst for action.”

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 26: James Campbell, 65, R, receives a coronavirus vaccine shot from … [+] medical assistant Cindy Alonzo at Community of Hope health clinic on February 26, 2021, in Washington, DC. Coronavirus vaccination rates in Ward 7 and 8, where a majority of the people are African-American, are the lowest in the city. In addition to having a girlfriend hasnt spent quality time with because of the coronavirus pandemic, Campbell also has three daughters and 11 grandkids he cant see for fear of spreading the virus. Campbell said, If everybody dont want to get the [vaccine] shot and take care of this, [the pandemic] is never going to end. And I want it to end. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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Dr William Soliman, the founder and CEO of the Accreditation Council Of Medical Affairs (ACMA) opined:

“My parents immigrated to this country from Egypt with the dream of finding a better life for their children. Knowing that my parents came from nothing and worked their way up has helped inspire me to give back to the community and guides my work ethic.”

Dr Soliman is uniquely placed as someone who has been invited by and spoken with the U.S. Congress Health Subcommittee and the United States Attorney General Alliance about the ACMA and the importance of certification standards for medical affairs and medical science liaison professionals in the pharmaceutical industry.

“It’s important we raise the bar in our healthcare ecosystem. We must address the needs of everyone and we must desist from putting price tags on people’s lives based on some monetary and optical sense of value. We can do better. I’m glad the documentary highlights this.”

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Yance Ford, the piece follows numerous harrowing accounts of individuals trying to access life-saving healthcare before dying.

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 27: Oscar-nominated, Emmy award-winning filmmaker & director Yance Ford of … [+] “The Color of Care” attends “The Color of Care” Premiere Screening Event at National Museum Of African American History & Culture on April 27, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for Smithsonian Channel)

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Oprah was asked by the Los Angeles Times about her biggest misconception of racial health disparities in the healthcare field before her work on the film and she said, “I think my biggest misconception was that it was about health insurance, that it was about having access financially, and if you didn’t have the money, then you couldn’t get the care that you needed. What COVID laid bare is that inequities in so many other areas of your life also contribute to the major disparity when it comes to healthcare.”

She later continued, “It’s more than just one film, it’s a moment to ignite a vital cultural conversation around this public health crisis. So it’s not just about the film. For me, it’s the Color of Care impact campaign, it’s a way to move this conversation forward, and actually champion some changes to hopefully eliminate racial disparities in the delivery of U.S. healthcare.”