We're Failing Dr. King's Legacy in Healthcare
This past week marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death. Dr. King famously said, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane." He said that in 1966. In 2018, the US still struggles with pervasive health inequality that weakens our overall healthcare system, and reduces our standing compared to other developed nations. The city of Atlanta, where Dr. King grew up and went to college, is a national healthcare hub, boasting world-class healthcare facilities. It is home to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Cancer Society, the Arthritis Foundation, and several schools of medicine and public health. But Atlanta also has some of the widest gaps in black and white health outcomes in the country. Among these disparities are:
- The highest gap in breast cancer mortality
- The highest black male death rate from prostate cancer
- A 12+ year difference in life expectancy between black and white resident in Atlanta and its surrounding county
From the article:
African-Americans make up just over half of the city's residents. But a recent study found that 80 percent of black children here live in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty, which often have poor access to quality medical care, while 6 percent of white children do. Several of the neighborhoods with predominately minority communities have poverty rates higher than 40 percent.
"I think we should be further along in Atlanta, but I think we should be further along in all cities in this country," says Dr. David Satcher, a former U.S. surgeon general and now senior adviser at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine here.
The health gaps between African-Americans and whites in Atlanta and other cities aren't because of shortcomings in the health care system alone, according to people who have studied the issue. They are also the result of decades of discrimination.
"It's a constellation of things," says Thomas LaVeist, chairman of the department of health policy and management at the George Washington University's school of public health in Washington, D.C. "African-Americans couldn't own land, wealth couldn't transfer from one generation to the next. Those were advantages [for whites] that were formed decades ago."
"The disparities are really national problems," he adds, "and there really is not a city that's spared."
Women's Health Disparities Linked to Unconscious Bias
In an interview on NPR's Fresh Air, journalist Maya Dusenbery discusses her new book, Doing Harm. As previously reported, Doing Harm is one of three notable new books addressing women's health disparities. Doing Harm takes the position that women's health conditions are often misdiagnosed due to systemic and unconscious gender bias that is prevalent in medical schools.
From the interview:
On some female patients taking a male relative or spouse with them to doctors' appointments to vouch for them
I found this to be one of the most disturbing things that I found in my research: how many women reported that as they were fighting to get their symptoms taken seriously, [they] just sort of sensed that what they really needed was somebody to testify to their symptoms, to testify to their sanity, and felt that bringing a partner or a father or even a son would be helpful. And then [they] found that it was [helpful], that they were treated differently when there was that man in the room who was corroborating their reports.
Chance of Obesity Can Be Traced to Zip Code
A new study published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice shows that the obesity epidemic is not impacting the country equally. Rather it is concentrated in areas characterized by an "ecology of disadvantage." Results, relying on US Census data, demonstrate a connection between obesity and income inequality, and racial and ethnic composition.
From the article:
“What this data provided was the ability to map chronic disease as it relates to where people live,” Kevin Fitzpatrick, a sociologist at UA said in a statement. “These two big data groups—chronic health disease data and structural place data—have not been combined in this way at this level until now.”
The researchers found a strong link between obesity levels and sociodemographic factors such as race, income inequality, education level, age and house value. Places with higher concentrations of low-income, minority populations had increased rates of obesity....
Clearly “place matters,” when determining someone's chances of having obesity in America, according to Fitzpatrick.
“'What’s your zip code?' is fast becoming one of the most important things your doctor could ask you, not 'How are you feeling today?'”
Why National Minority Health Month Matters [Audio]
Listen to a 5-minute radio commentary on why its important to recognize National Minority Health Month, from Dr. Lorette Oden, Chairperson of the Department of Health Sciences and Social Work at Western Illinois University.
From the commentary:
In recent years, the US has ranked below other wealthy countries in terms of overall health and health care. Factors associated with such low rankings include lack of access to affordable health care, lack of health insurance coverage, inadequate attention to mental health conditions, increase in prevalence of chronic health conditions (both among children and adults), and exposure to harmful environmental conditions, among many others.
Many of the health issues afflicting the U.S. disproportionately impact populations of people of color compared to non-Hispanic White Americans. There are multiple ways to begin to address health disparities in the US. One way is to increase people’s awareness of the contributions and health needs of the diverse groups who constitute the United States. Minority Health Month, which is recognized each year nationally during the month of April, provides such an avenue to continue that discussion.