Eliminating Health Disparities Will Take More Than Just Raising Awareness, Editorial Says
It will "take more than 'awareness' to change the numbers" on the gap in mortality between black and white infants, a Contra Costa Times editorial states (Contra Costa Times, 3/7).
The California Department of Public Health from Feb. 17-21 observed "Black Infant Health Week" to focus on reducing the gap between black and white infant mortality rates. Black infants in California are twice as likely as infants of any other race to die before age one.
In 2004, there were 13.6 deaths per 1,000 births among black infants nationally, compared with 5.7 deaths among white infants, 5.5 deaths among Hispanic infants and 4.5 deaths among Asian-American infants (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 2/20).
The editorial states, "Making black people more aware that their babies are more likely to die ... is not going to change much. Here is a case where awareness just isn't enough."
According to the editorial, the "infant mortality rate is only one spoke in a troubling wheel of disparities minorities face in health care." The health differences between whites and minorities "stem from systemic issues as much as socioeconomic factors and lifestyle behaviors," the editorial states. It adds that studies have shown that minorities do not receive the same care as whites at hospitals and that they cannot be "blamed for the poor treatment they receive."
"Being black or any minority may not be the largest contributing factor" to disparities; "being poor could be bigger," the editorial says, adding, "Poverty is a plague visited upon many blacks that is not easily shaken, and many social hurdles contribute to a continuing economic disparity." In addition, the fact that many minorities are uninsured can contribute to the quality of care they receive, the editorial states.
The editorial concludes, "Action must be taken. Minorities and any concerned party must demand change. ... Still, the bulk of actions must come from within the medical community. Either that, or a universal care system really is the answer" (Contra Costa Times, 3/7).