At two forums on healthcare reform at the NAACP’s Centennial Convention Saturday, panelists presented a slew of statistics that rank African Americans with the highest prevalence, incidence, and mortality rates for diabetes, AIDS, cancer, and other diseases.
“[People] like you and me are falling through the cracks,” said Roslyn M. Brock, vice chairman of the national board of directors at the NAACP.
“Social and economic determinants shape health equity,” said panelist Shonta Chambers, a representative of the American Heart Association, who says access to care and treatment disparities are inclusive of a person’s environment and other social determinants. “We would be remiss to talk about health disparities and not talk about communities.”
Chambers believes that African Americans must diversify the discussion surrounding healthcare by including policy and research on land use, agriculture, infrastructure, transportation, and economic development and how these topics affect health disparities.
“Racial and ethnic minorities get left out all of the time,” says Hilary Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and the director of the NAACP Washington bureau, in an interview after the session. “Comprehensive healthcare must be inclusive. One size does not fit all.”
Health disparities are not just about patient care, he says, suggesting that some of the solutions might involve reducing, for example, high incarceration and high unemployment.
As Congress gets ready to vote on a new healthcare reform bill, Shelton recommends that more focus be added on prevention.
“There must be a system in place that is totally inclusive and that educates people about how to control their environments and seek healthcare before they get sick,” Shelton says.
He says that the NAACP supports the Congressional Tri-Caucus, a consortium of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The group is working on the Healthcare Equality and Accountability Act, which will make sure that racial and ethnic minorities are represented in every phase of healthcare, including policy, research, insurance coverage, and the employment of medical services.
Marcia A. Wade is the reporter for BlackEnterprise.com.