Commentary

In Louisiana, health inequities raise risks for Black community

August 31, 2022 7:59 am

Research shows there is a significant racial gap for nearly every marker of good health and well-being among Black people in the United States. (Canva image)

Too many African Americans contract serious diseases and die much earlier than white Americans from preventable and treatable diseases due to a lack of information, access to and the affordability of quality health care. This is heath inequity. This is economically damaging for Louisiana, morally wrong, and something we can reverse if we act now.

According to the U.S. Office of Minority Health, compared with their white counterparts, African Americans are generally at higher risk for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says African Americans are more likely to die at early ages for all causes as young African Americans are living with diseases that are typically more common at older ages for other races.

For example, high blood pressure is common in 12% of Blacks versus 10% of whites ages 18-34, respectively. Diabetes is common in 10% of Blacks ages 35-49 compared with 6% of whites. According to new findings in the Annie E. Casey Foundation 2022 Kids Count Data Book, Louisiana ranks 49th in children’s health and overall well-being.

This data is alarming because we know that it reflects the daily experiences of real Louisianans. For more than a century, we have known that the Black community has been plagued by poor health outcomes, with a significant racial gap for nearly every marker of good health and well-being. Recently, however, it has become more clear that the drivers of these health inequities are not solely individual medical factors, but are social and economic determinants that also negatively affect our economic progress and prosperity.

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Changing these disparities require public partnerships, equitable distribution of resources, and bringing public health programs to people where they live.

That is why the Urban League of Louisiana is proud to present The Big Health Event along with presenting sponsor Ochsner Health. The Big Health Event will feature a variety of movement and exercise classes, a Kids Zone with movement and STEM activities, cooking demonstrations by renowned New Orleans chefs, candid conversations with health experts, career opportunities for those seeking employment in the health care industry, information on doing business in the health care sector, and 20 health screenings for adults and young people including blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, height and weight, body mass index and hip assessments, vision, hearing, and more.

The Big Health Event is free to the public and will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

The purpose of the Big Health Event is to promote health and wellness as a priority for the African American community and other communities of color. We applaud Ochsner for leading the Healthy State by 2030 initiative which aims to help Louisiana become one of the top 40 healthiest states to live and thrive through enhancing health care access and improving health equity and health outcomes.

Everyone, regardless of race, neighborhood, or financial status, should have fair and equal access to a healthy community and the chance to live out their God-given purpose. Building partnerships that allow us to highlight critical disparities while developing ways to support the community through increased knowledge and access to resources is just one of the ways the Urban League of Louisiana is fulfilling its mission to help African-American and other underserved communities in Louisiana achieve economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights.

Judy Reese Morse is president and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana.

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