Time to Stop Talking About Health Disparity and Take Action

On August 18th, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called on the health profession and the federal government to double their efforts to reduce disparities in health care among African Americans, women and other minorities.

Bruce S. Gordon, President and CEO, NAACP, said, "This latest report about health disparities among African Americans is another sign that it is time to stop talking about unequal health treatment and to take steps to solve the problem. Equal access to health care is one of our most important civil rights."

"Health disparities would be greatly reduced if the nation would implement the recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine in 2002 and other recommendations made in the Sullivan Commission report in 2004," said Dr. Lucille C. Norville Perez, NAACP Director of Health Advocacy. "The African American community is facing a health crisis that will only get worse if the federal government does not continue to develop health initiatives that provide outreach to minority communities. More than provide additional minority health care providers, we need doctors, insurance companies and policy-makers to do more to eliminate the disparities."

Perez said the Fair Care legislation introduced last year by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) would reward providers who reduce health care disparities, increase data collection and establish national health standards. The Lieberman bill failed to win Senate approval last year. On top of that, Perez noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched programs in 2004 to help eliminate health disparities, but President Bush cut the funding for the programs in the 2005 federal budget.

African Americans, even when they have health insurance, are more likely to receive poor medical care because a patient's skin color and gender still play a large role in determining the quality of care he or she receives, according to two studies reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The studies by Emory University and Yale University found disparities in the management of heart attacks and in high-cost surgical procedures among the elderly. The studies showed that overall, white patients had more procedures and received better treatment than black patients.

In studying nearly 600,000 white and black patients treated for heart attacks, researchers found the rate of treatments went progressively down in white women, black men and black women compared with white men. Black women had the highest rate of in-hospital mortality

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