Making Health Care Disparities Worse

This week, America observed the 150th anniversary of the day when Confederate batteries opened up on Union-occupied Fort Sumter and launched the nation into the Civil War, costing more than 600,000 lives.

The nation observed rather than celebrated the day, April 12, though there are those who might have wanted to celebrate, considering it was that opening salvo that led to the end of slavery and many of the cruelties and depravities that went with it.

One of those cruelties and depravities involved something that has been little discussed: slaves as experiments in medical experiments.

Although people today use animals for medical experiments, back then, because blacks — despite having all the human parts, albeit a different color — were not considered human, they were prime subjects for ghoulish medical experiments. Equally important: Slaves could not say no.

Their lives were not their own. Others, more powerful than they, held their life and their quality of life in their hands — and there was nothing they could do.

I thought about this while sitting on a panel with health professionals at Southern Connecticut State University this week called “Unnatural Causes … Is Inequality Making us Sick?”

It looked at the disparities in Connecticut and nationally with such data as The 2009 Connecticut Health Disparities Report, which found that blacks suffer disproportionately from conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer, and that blacks, followed by Hispanics, have the highest rates of infant mortality.

There were students — future health professionals — on hand learning about the inequalities in health, the social and environmental determinants to good health and ways to advocate health equity.

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