Monday, May 20, 2024

Good Healthcare: Right or Privilege…

April 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Health, News, Weekly Columns

( The common goal of 22 million Afro-Americans is respect as human beings, the God-given right to be a human being. Our common goal is to obtain the human rights that America has been denying us. We can never get civil rights in America until our human rights are first restored. We will never be recognized as citizens there until we are first recognized as humans.”

— Malcolm X “Racism: the Cancer that is Destroying America“, in Egyptian Gazette (Aug. 25 1964) —

*Is good health for African Americans right or a privilege?

Even though we comprise a relatively small percentage of the population, as a minority group African Americans often suffer a greater percentage of incidence of many of the leading health conditions in the United States. Why is this? One potential answer to that question is health disparities. Despite the efforts to eliminate the health disparities among African Americans and the majority culture health disparities continue to exist.

The concept of health disparities is defined as differences in the occurrence, death rate, and burden of health conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States.

The state of health for African-Americans is especially precarious. Chronic disease has an excessive impact on minority populations. Consider these facts:

The prevalence of diabetes among African Americans is about 70% higher than among white Americans.

Infant mortality rates are twice as high for African Americans as for white Americans.
The 5-year survival rate for cancer among African Americans diagnosed for was about 44%, compared with 59% for white Americans

For African-Americans in the United States, health disparities can mean earlier deaths, decreased quality of life, loss of economic opportunities, and perceptions of injustice. For society, these disparities translate into less than optimal productivity, higher health-care costs, and social inequity.

We hold these to truths to self-evident…

Evident to whom?

America, where did you go wrong?

As you would in solving any riddle, you must go back to the beginning.

Without drugging up the horrors of the “institution” called slavery, disparities in healthcare for African Americans has roots in how the medical establishment embraced an inferior view of who we were as human beings.

Benjamin Rush, a prominent Philadelphia doctor, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Dean of the Medical School at the University of Pennsylvania (and referred to as the “Father of American Psychiatry), described “Negroes” as suffering from an affliction called Negritude, which was thought to be a mild form of leprosy. The only cure for the disorder was to become white. In1851, Dr. Samuel Cartwright, a prominent Louisiana physician and one of the leading authorities in his time on the medical care of “Negroes”, identified two mental disorders peculiar to slaves. Drapetomia or the disease causing Negroes to run away, and felt that the cure, Freedom, however, removed all hygienic restraints, and they were no longer obedient to the laws of health, plunging into all sort of excesses and vices, leading irregular lives, and having apparently little or no control over their appetites and passions. “To sum it up, he was convinced that freedom made us nuts.

Apparently, Dr. Powell failed to factor poverty, further disruption of family and kinship ties, racism, and discrimination into the high rates of insanity. As recent as the late1960s, several leading social scientists even suggested that urban violence, which most African-Americans perceived as a reaction to oppression, poverty and state-sponsored economic and physical violence against us, was actually due to “brain dysfunction, ” and recommended the use of psychosurgery to prevent outbreaks of violence. These type of misconception and misperceptions continue to this very day. Racial and ethnic minorities receive lower quality healthcare than whites.

A disparity is an inequality. No if, and, or buts.

In the United States, health care should not differ by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or geographic location. It is important to understand that differences in race and ethnicity (among other things) will always exist; it is wrong, however, when these differences lead to unequal care.

The existence of racial and ethnic disparities in health care represents a failure of the healthcare system to provide equal, high quality health care to all individuals, regardless of ethnicity, race and other factors.

Medical school does an excellent job of teaching the diagnosis and treatment of clinical disease but fails to prepare future physicians to incorporate psychosocial and cultural factors and overcome personal biases in the care of patients. It is reasonable to assume that the majority of healthcare provides find prejudice morally wrong, and at odds with their professional values, but healthcare providers, like other members of society, may not recognize manifestations of prejudice in their own behavior.

Therefore, when African-Americans are sick and poor, they are just as enslaved as if the law made them so. Hasta Siempre!

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible.

Written By Glenn Ellis

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