Calling on the Black Community’s Best and Brightest
I was one of those people who associate editor Robin Smiles in her article “Race Matters in Health Care” says “yawned” when the Institute of Medicine released its report recently, which documented that minorities, regardless of income, education and access, were discriminated against in health care. I thought to myself, Congress had to mandate a report to tell us something, particularly those of us in the Black community, already know and have known? There certainly is no harm in releasing the report. In fact, being conducted by a highly regarded agency like the Institute of Medicine may legitimize and bring much-needed attention to this truly life-threatening issue.
I have to admit, however, that I stopped yawning when I reviewed the accompanying statistics on the health disparities between Blacks and Whites and other ethnic groups as well. It is alarming to see the rates at which Blacks and Hispanics are contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS. In addition, Blacks are disproportionately affected by other illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes just to name a few.
In all seriousness, I should not assume that all members of the Black community responded similarly to the report’s findings. Indeed there were members of the health care community and the general public who were surprised by the report’s conclusions.
Ronald Roach, one of our senior writers, attended the Institute of Medicine’s press conference in Washington when they released the report, and said there was more than one reporter who still was not completely convinced that with all factors being equal between Black and Whites — insurance coverage, income, education, etc. — Blacks still receive poorer care.
Those particular responses came from journalists, and what’s more unsettling is that there are policy-makers and members of the health care establishment that would probably argue that Blacks and Whites do receive the same type of care all other factors being equal. But statistics don’t lie, and that’s the clearest and strongest piece of evidence the Black community has to prove that racial and ethnic disparities in health care do in fact exist.
As you will read in Robin’s article, health care professionals suggest several remedies to cure health disparities. One key remedy would be for our best and brightest African American physicians, scientists and other health care professionals to get involved in researching those health issues that particularly affect the minority community. As one policy-maker says in the article, “Research drives the health agenda.”
And speaking of our best and brightest, Dr. Johnnetta Cole is heading to Bennett College this summer to lead the all-female, historically Black college.
We have covered Bennett’s recent highs and lows following the departure of longtime president Dr. Gloria Scott, and feel encouraged, along with the rest of the higher education community, that Dr. Johnnetta Cole will be the one to get the North Carolina institution back on track. As a product of a women’s college, I personally can’t think of a better legacy or calling than to work for the betterment of the Black community’s two all-female institutions of higher learning.
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