Dr. King’s famous quotation regarding injustice in health care is namely, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.”
These words from Dr. King should make each of us pause, especially as we look at the numbers amongst African American men and women being the way they are when it comes to our health.
Racial and ethnic disparities are undermining our communities, along with the overall health system. African Americans are more likely to suffer from certain health conditions, more likely to become more ill, more likely to have serious health complications and more likely to eventually die from their ailments than Whites.
Let’s just take a look at some of the numbers related to the more common health issues, and how they affect African Americans in the United States.
- DEPRESSION – 20% less likely to receive treatment for depression
- ASTHMA – 2.1 times as likely to die from asthma
- BREAST CANCER – 40% more likely to die from breast cancer
- STROKE – 40% more likely to die of stroke
- HEART DISEASE – 30% more likely to go undetected or treated
- OBESITY – 50% more likely to be over weight and die from obesity complications, the highest of all races
- PROSTATE CANCER – 2 times as likely to die from prostate cancer
- DIABETES – 60% more likely to be diabetic and 2 times as likely to undergo, leg, foot or toe amputations
- HIV – 9 times as likely to be diagnosed with HIV and 8 times as likely to die from HIV
As if these numbers aren’t troubling enough to make you pause, the issues are even more expansive when we look at the health of our African American children.
- INFANT MORTALITY – 2 times as likely to die as an infant
- SIDS – 2 times as likely to die of SIDS
- OBESITY – 73% more likely to be obese than any other race
- DEPRESSION – 30% more likely to attempt suicide as a high school student
Dr. King shared so much with us during his lifetime, but one of the most disturbing, yet important things he shared with us, that still rings loud and clear today, is that “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Racial and ethnic disparities in health care – whether in insurance coverage, access, or quality of care – are one of many factors producing inequalities in health status in the United States. Eliminating these disparities is politically sensitive and challenging in part because their causes are intertwined with a contentious history of race relations in America. Nonetheless, assuring greater equity and accountability of the health care system is important. The bigger issue still lies within the accountability of each and every individual and becoming more empowered and armed with the truth.
Once we can accept that we are ultimately responsible for our health, and that of our children, real change can then begin and we can begin effectively addressing these issues in all of our communities.