Black-White Health Gap Should Be Addressed as a Race Issue, Not Class Issue, Author Says
The St. Petersburg Times last week featured a question and answer with Vernellia Randall -- an author, lawyer and professor of law at the University of Dayton School of Law -- that focused on racial health disparities. According to Randall -- author of "Dying While Black: An In-Depth Look at a Crisis in the American Healthcare System" -- while there have been improvements in the black-white health gap, the "improvements have come in the improvement in the general health issues related to society, not because anybody has done anything in eliminating the disparity." Randall added that the problem is that disparities are being addressed "as a class-based issue, not as a racial disparity issue."
Randall said that if poverty alone could explain health disparities, then there would be no differences when comparing the health of poor blacks and poor whites. "But all of the comparisons show poor blacks are more unhealthy than poor whites," she said, adding that it is more likely that environmental issues are a cause. "You can't expect people to live in toxic environments and be healthy," Randall said. In addition, "There needs to be more regular action requiring certain types of zoning for selling alcohol and drugs" to address the problem, according to Randall. A "living wage in this society that's based on the true cost of living" would also help address disparities, she said.
Randall suggested that community members lobby for changes, such as requesting grocery stores in neighborhoods that have none and calling for increased oversight of local businesses. "We can regulate business behavior to the benefit of a ... healthier, happier society," she said. Randall further discussed how to address racial health disparities at a local forum called, "Dying While Black: Advocacy Strategies for Eliminating the Health Care Gap," which was held on Saturday (Ave, St. Petersburg Times, 5/8).