Anyone who believes race is an irrelevant factor when it comes to America’s healthcare system has not looked at the cold grave facts.
Minorities in the U.S. die at higher rates from nearly every known disease in comparison to Whites, and suffer disproportionately from otherwise treatable illnesses because of inadequate or non-existent access to healthcare.
The race issue as political rhetoric spewed in the media by politicians and pundits alike, who claim that minorities have it no worse when it comes to healthcare has worked.
The message continually spun that color has no germane place in the dialog of healthcare is a distraction from the fact that institutional racism still exists, and has thus far led to no tangible strongholds to ensure that healthcare in this country becomes colorblind.
Just ask any person of color who has lost a loved one because they were too poor to see a doctor, and forced to wait until their prognosis was fatal.
Historically, many minorities in the U.S. have had the experience of receiving reactive rather than proactive care, at clinics, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms, which costs the country more money with less care for all of us all in the end.
With the ever-failing economy, the majority of those who are uninsured are non-Whites. According to a recent study by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Unemployment rates are higher in certain communities of color, in comparison to whites, and people of color had lower rates of health coverage and more difficulty accessing the healthcare system.”
Across all racial lines, Black males are suffering the most due to poor or non-existent access to healthcare. According to recent data kept by the Centers of Disease Control and the Office of Minority Health, although black males only make up only 13.5 percent of the American population, they are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer when compared to White males.
They are also 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease, twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, and 2.2 times more likely to die from the disease.
Black males are also 60 percent more likely to die from a stroke than White males, and according to the CDC, “African-American stroke survivors are more likely to become disabled and have difficulty with activities of daily living than non-Hispanic whites.”
The data is just as grim for African-American women when compared to white woman. Black women have a 34 percent higher chance of dying from breast cancer; twice as likely to die from stomach cancer, and a 22 times higher chance of a diagnoses of AIDS with a 20 percent higher rate of death.
“Whites live an average of 5-7 times longer than blacks,” says Thomas A. LaVeist, Ph.D., author of ‘Minority Populations and Health: An Introduction to Health Disparities in the United States.’ “African-Americans are also more likely than whites to be victims of homicide and HIV/AIDS. Infant mortality is double for Blacks. It’s been that way since statistics were kept.”
In 2007, Blacks accounted for 49 percent of HIV/AIDS cases and had more than seven times the AIDS rate of non-white Hispanic males.
“There is a powerful link between poverty, low socioeconomic status, and HIV,” says Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “In communities with a generalized epidemic, we need to reach everyone in the community with prevention information and interventions.”
According to The World Health Organization, although the United States spends more on healthcare than any industrialized country, it ranks last in the quality of health among 191 member nations.
While rating a country’s overall quality of healthcare is critical, one of its most significant indicators of a population’s health is the infant mortality rate, and numbers are particularly grave for minority infants in the U.S. For example, black infants suffer the grim statistics of poor healthcare, with the death rate that is 2.3 times higher than white infants.
African-American babies are also four times likely to die from low birth weight, and have 1.8 times the sudden infant death syndrome mortality as whites. Black mothers are 2.5 times likely as non-Hispanic white mothers to begin prenatal care in the third trimester, or receive no prenatal care at all.
Clearly, the inability to afford healthcare by minorities as well as by poor and even middle class white Americans has only gone from bad to worse with an economy that has seen job and home losses soar to heights no one saw coming.
According to a report from The Kaiser Family Foundation ‘The Effects of the Economic Recession on Communities of Color’ published July 2009, “Minority individuals are disproportionately affected by many of the consequences of the economic recession such as high unemployment rates, increased concern about paying for healthcare coverage, housing, and food.”
The study also states that a “higher percentage of minority individuals report having issues obtaining a good-paying job and losing work hours, as a result of the economic downturn.”
While some 46 million Americans have no health insurance, one assurance that cannot be denied is that these heinous statistics show how this affects a disproportionate number of uninsured African-Americans, proving that economic, institutional, and social barriers still exist some 55 years after the Civil Rights Movement reared its first monumental strides in 1955.
The late great Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Let us heed King’s eloquent and timeless words, and do more than just apathetically hope that things will change. We need to demand and fight for reform on the forefront of one of America’s most epochal battlegrounds; that all people should have the basic right to live healthy and experience wholeheartedly the country’s most robust principal, that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a pursuit we can all realize, regardless of one’s skin color.
What do you think?