Keynote: ‘Racial inequities in healthcare’ with Valeriana Chikoti-Bandua


Eli Kirshbaum


We had the opportunity to close out our 2023 Washington State of Reform Health Policy Conference earlier this month with a unique keynote conversation with Valeriana Chikoti-Bandua, executive director of Social Justice Fund NW. Chikoti-Bandua discussed health inequities that persist in Washington State’s healthcare system, particularly pertaining to race, and draws on her life experience as a minority to offer strategies for closing these equity gaps.


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Among the many topics Chikoti-Bandua touched on was the issue of discrimination against Black people in the healthcare setting. Responding to a question from an audience member, who mentioned that a friend experienced healthcare trauma very recently, Chikoti-Bandua discussed the persistence of healthcare trauma that Black people face and how stakeholders can work to address this. She referenced a personal experience she’s had involving this issue.

“One of the times where I was getting my blood drawn, one of the nurses who was attending to me basically told me she couldn’t see my veins, so she couldn’t draw my blood,” she said. “The doctor who came in the room right after that, I [told him that] what was just said to me was one of the most anti-black things. Because how are you telling me can’t see my veins? My veins are very real. And it would have just taken someone to take the time to say, ‘I might not be the person that can really access your veins well, I’ll bring somebody else into the room.’

And I think this really also just speaks to the text that people are even reading in terms of, like, medical trainings. I know that there are now people going on social media who are black and brown and indigenous, and are saying, ‘Hey, let’s be mindful of even the language that’s being used because it’s othering communities, it’s othering folks … The reality is, we have to—those of us who are black, indigenous and brown—live and breath and experience, unfortunately, [things that are] rooted in a lot of racial oppression.”

Watch the full keynote above.