According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2007, African Americans still can expect to live 6-10 fewer years than whites and face higher rates of illness.

The government’’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey reports that among preschool children hospitalized for asthma, only 7% of black and 2% of Hispanic children, compared with 21% of white children, are prescribed routine medications to prevent future asthma-related hospitalizations.

Central to this is lack of access to health care. In its recent annual report, the Urban League stated: “”Uninsurance rate for blacks is about 21% – almost double the 12% rate for whites. Latinos have the highest uninsurance rate at 34%.” In the Democrats’’ new bill, undocumented workers (mostly Latino) are left without any of the new meager benefits.”

Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at HHS says: “”In this country, about 80 percent of African Americans are taken care of by 20 percent of physicians. And when those physicians are surveyed, time after time, they report that they can’’t get specialty care for their patients, they can’’t get high-quality diagnostic care for their patients. It’’s hard for them to get their patient into a good hospital.””

A major report by the Health Policies Institute states: “”Racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in segregated, high-poverty communities, communities that have historically suffered from a lack of health care investment. The result too often is that the geographic distribution of health care resources within and across communities results in racially disparate health care.”

The report also states: “”The crisis of health insurance disproportionately hurts low-income families and communities of color, in no small part because health insurance in the United States remains linked to employment.””

In the words of Martin Luther King, “”Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane”” (Speech to the Medical Committee for Human Rights, 1966).

Only by guaranteeing quality health care to every person in America through a system like single payer can we start to address this disparity. Then we need a massive expansion of quality clinics into the poorest and most disadvantaged communities, and a redirection of medical research towards issues especially pressing for minority communities. This needs to be combined with a transformation of the economy to eradicate poverty by guaranteeing everyone a living-wage job and quality housing.

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