As the political spheres argue the residual effects of the healthcare bill being upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, I think one of the worse things one can do is make “health” a red and blue political issue. Health: the general ability to have the soundness of a physical body and mental mind. I think we should be happy that the healthcare bill was upheld, however, if we allow the discourse to linger around the ideas capital, and not the issue of health in disadvantaged communities, then I believe we have done injustice to those communities and the entire healthcare discourse. Thus, I believe it to be important to rejoice in the Supreme Court decision, but also to spend some time discussing disparities in health[care] and how we will spark urban health initiatives across the country.
One cannot truly talk about the issue of healthcare in underprivileged communities without putting it in the context of poverty, safety, geography, and history. We can start by listing some statistics I was reading about on WebMD:
- Diabetes is 60% more common in black Americans than in white Americans. Blacks are up to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a limb amputation and up to 5.6 times more likely to suffer kidney disease than other people with diabetes.
- African-Americans are three times more likely to die of asthma than white Americans.
- Deaths from lung scarring — sarcoidosis — are 16 times more common among blacks than among whites. The disease recently killed former NFL star Reggie White at age 43.
- Despite lower tobacco exposure, black men are 50% more likely than white men to get lung cancer.
- Strokes kill 4 times more 35- to 54-year-old black Americans than white Americans. Blacks have nearly twice the first-time stroke risk of whites.
- Blacks develop high blood pressure earlier in life — and with much higher blood pressure levels — than whites. Nearly 42% of black men and more than 45% of black women aged 20 and older have high blood pressure.
- Cancer treatment is equally successful for all races. Yet black men have a 40% higher cancer death rate than white men. African-American women have a 20% higher cancer death rate than white women.
What is the reason for all of this? To find the answer you truly do not need to go any further than environment (poverty, safety, and geography) and the history/cycles in which these health disparities have recidivated and sustained inside of black communities. Here are three brief examples (even outside of disease) of how minority communities face even more of a struggle to maintain good health.
- Food Deserts: This is becoming the classic example of the disadvantaged black and Latino communities face when trying to live healthy lifestyles. What is food desert? (I’m sure most of you already know). But to put it simply, it’s an area (usually with minority communities in urban or rural areas) where healthy and affordable food is hard to find. This needs to be fixed, pronto.
- Safe communities: Anyone ever been to a suburban (or well off) neighborhood and seen everyone jogging about, seeming as though they have not one care in the world? The inverse of this is of course, going to black inner-city communities and not finding a shift even in the ideology of running or jogging. I believe this could be correlated with the safety of a neighborhood. Many do not feel comfortable enough to walk in some communities, it will even more of a risk to run. Furthermore, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you’re in a black community and you see people running??? (I’m not going to answer this, but many know what I’m talking about…#tryingtobreakstereotypes)
- Healthcare Providers: It is common in black communities that people will not have a consistent healthcare provider or physician that they see on a regular basis. Individuals often rely on emergency care, which is not the best mechanism to stay healthy and can be even more expensive due to the ridiculous price of emergency care.
Overall, now that the Supreme Court has settled the debacle around the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), I hope that we can stop arguing about the particularities within the Affordable Care Act and start to spend some substantive amount of time and effort tackling the healthcare issues that exists inside of the black and Latino communities.