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HUMAN RIGHTS -
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Health Care Disparities Kill 80,000 Blacks - U.S. Study

Posted in the database on Wednesday, March 09th, 2005 @ 22:49:04 MST (1720 views)
from Reuters  

Untitled Document WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 80,000 black Americans die every year because of continuing disparities in health care, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher said on Wednesday.
Although the government, public and insurance companies know blacks get shortchanged in health care, little has been done to improve the situation, Satcher and other health experts said.

Satcher examined U.S. mortality rates for blacks and whites between 1960 and 2000 and found that 40.5 percent more blacks died each year than would have been expected if they were white. That adds up to 83,570 deaths a year, he reported in a special issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Many studies have looked at the gap between blacks and whites in health care, and find a variety of factors contribute to the problem, including economic status, education, prejudice and access to doctors and clinics. Many U.S. blacks also say they mistrust doctors and hospitals.

In 2002, the Institute of Medicine, an independent group, reported that members of racial and ethnic minorities are given lower quality health care than whites even when they make as much money and carry the same insurance.

In January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that black people in the United States are far more likely than whites to die from strokes, diabetes and other diseases.

Sociologist David Williams of the University of Michigan and colleagues reported in the same issue of Health Affairs that blacks had 30 percent higher death rates from cancer and heart disease than whites did in 2000. In 1950, blacks and whites were equally likely to die from heart disease and blacks had lower death rates from cancer.

But the opposite happened with flu and pneumonia, the seventh-leading cause of death.

"The virtual elimination of a racial disparity in death rates from flu and pneumonia is a result of the ready availability of treatment facilitated by Medicare and Medicaid," said Pamela Braboy Jackson of Indiana University, who worked with Williams.

Satcher, who advocates for a national health care system not based on private insurance, said such a system would help, as would having more blacks in the health care professions.

Neighborhoods that are safe and designed to encourage exercise would also help, he said.

"We need to rethink what constitutes health policy in this country," Williams said.

U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and doctor, said Congress is addressing many of the issues in encouraging electronic-based medical records and other legislation.

"The best way to drive down overall costs while increasing value is to foster competitively driven innovation -- as we do in the rest of our economy," Frist argued in another article in the journal.



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