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Why is the health of African-Americans still declining?
Vernita Davis-Knight

Did you know approximately 12 percent (34.7 million) of the U.S. population is African American (3). Compared with white Americans, they are less likely to have private or employment-based health insurance, more likely to be covered by Medicaid or other publicly funded insurance, and twice as likely to be uninsured, even though eight of 10 are in working families. A disproportionate percentage of African Americans are employed in jobs that do not provide health insurance. Many African Americans, especially those who are poor and those working without health care benefits, are less likely than white Americans to have a usual source of health care (2).

Health Disparities
The health disparity for African Americans compared to white Americans have not changed over the last 40 years, although overall reductions in excess death rates occurred for all ages and gender groups. Medicaid and Medicare have contributed to better health care and health status for many African Americans, yet the overall gap in mortality has not changed dramatically, and the infant mortality rate has worsened (1). Why is this? The state of healthcare for African Americans is getting worse and not better. The access to healthcare and quality healthcare for the race is becoming an epidemic and needs the attention of the politicians, leaders, and physicians.
Health Care costs
The cost of treating the uninsured and underinsured has also risen. The uninsured come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. On the provider side of the coin, hospitals and healthcare systems have tried to provide access to health care for the population and have reported substantial operating losses and uncompensated care balances that effect the profitability of the organization. The strategic planning and the marketing of insured patients to offset the loss of the African Americans have been positively initiated in health care organizations around the nation.
Health Status
The disease epidemics for African Americans are also at an all time high. For example, obesity, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease are interrelated risk factors for African American women (4). Other interconnections to poorer health and lower life expectancy in African Americans are lifestyle habits such as smoking, diet, lack of physical exercise; life stress; occupational conditions; and individual and systemic barriers to preventive health care. The ability to educate the African American community regarding these epidemics, access to healthcare, preventative care, and lifestyle changes will help to raise the health status of our culture.
By Vernita Davis-Knight, MS

1. Satcher, D., Fryer, G. E., McCann, J., Troutman, A., Woolf, S. H., & Rust, G. (2005). What if we were equal? A comparison of the black-white mortality gap in 1960 and 2000. Health Affairs, 24, 459- 464.

2. Smedley, B. D., Stith, A.Y., & Nelson, A. R. (Eds.), Committee on Understanding and Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. (2003). Unequal treatment: Confronting racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1999). Mental health: A report oj the surgeon general. Rockville, MD: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, Center for Mental Health Services and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Cancer Institute. (2003, January). In Cancer in women of color (K. Glanz, Ed., Monograph). Bethesda, MD: Author.
About the Author

BlackHealthE is focused on the enhancement and promotion of health and spiritual well-being among the African American community.

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