Since as far back as 1899, W.E.B. Du Bois documented racial health disparities and their link to poverty and discrimination. Today, we have made few advances in addressing what Martin Luther King, Jr, called the “most shocking and inhumane” of all forms of inequality.
As we sit at the cusp of sweeping legislative reform to fix our ailing health care system, Americans who believe in social justice and equality must stand up and support a public health insurance plan that would provide access to affordable, quality coverage for all Americans.
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For far too long we have witnessed the effect of a health care system that excludes individuals based on their ability to pay. The result? An immoral and unethical system that renders uninsured Americans separate, unequal and unworthy of health care.
By default, Black and other people of color bear the burden of unequal access to health care. Racial and ethnic minorities make-up one-third of the U.S. population but account for 50 percent of the nation’s 47 million uninsured. Often without a primary care doctor or regular source of health care, minorities experience excess disease, disabilities and deaths at alarming rates. As unemployment increases, these health gaps between whites and people of color, uninsured and insured, will only widen.
A recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services highlights some of the disparities:
- Seven out of 10 African Americans are obese or overweight.
- Blacks are more likely to develop and die of cancer than any other racial or ethnic group.
- Fifteen percent of African Americans have diabetes compared to only 8% of whites.
- African Americans are more likely to delay seeking care and are two times more likely than whites to use the emergency room for health care
Access to a primary care doctor and screenings to prevent or catch health conditions before they worsen is a critical part of reducing these disparities.
Keep reading: Pt. 2: Why We Need a Public Option