We can’t stop our progress in getting quality health care for uninsured or underinsured local families.
Since last year’s release of our groundbreaking report (State of Black Broward: Health Report) on the troubling state of health for many black and Hispanic residents of Broward County, community stakeholders have started working harder to expand health services for all residents, leveling disparities and addressing chronic illnesses that have plagued our minority communities for so long.
But as our momentum gains, we worry about the future of the Affordable Care Act, which has provided health care to millions of Americans, including those in Broward County. The recent change in the makeup of the U.S. Congress has signaled, once again, that rough seas are heading for our nation’s health care reforms. Whatever happens, we don’t want to see the sinking of any gains that have been made in tackling the challenges of access to care, food deserts (areas where affordable and nutritious food is difficult to find) and chronic diseases.
Let’s back up a bit to understand how serious the health needs really are for hundreds of families in Broward County.
The seminal issue of State of Black Broward: Health Report (which was supported by Sunshine Health) found troubling data about the health of our residents, and about social and economic barriers standing in the way of them accessing health care services. One major finding: chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke and respiratory illnesses affect the minority community at significantly higher rates than other populations. Another key finding: Non-Hispanic Blacks, as well as Hispanic adults and children, have the greatest disparity concerning issues of infant health, nutrition and access to care.
The report is part of the Urban League of Broward County’s new “Breaking the Cycle” initiative to improve our community’s economic stability by addressing the root challenges in four critical areas: jobs, education, housing and health. As many of us know, health plays a key role in determining the livelihood and development of our communities. And so, we provide access to vital health care resources for families, which include helping adults navigate the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace and by connecting an average of 300 pregnant women to safe and reliable prenatal care each year.
There is still so much more to do, as the report points out, particularly in addressing health care disparities between racial and ethnic groups.
In our community, fetal deaths and infant mortality rates are about three times higher for black infants when compared to white and Hispanic infants. Also, the highest rates of teenage birth occur among young black teens (38.2%), followed by Hispanic teens (22.9%). And non-Hispanic blacks are six times as likely to die from HIV/AIDS when compared to Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites.
These numbers are indeed concerning, but we as a community are working together to share resources and expertise in creating an expanded web of activities and services that support the improvement in health for all Broward County residents. All constituents – business, government, faith and community groups – need to stay committed to finding innovative and culturally competent approaches to remove barriers and disparities in health care.
Only this strategy will engage people and ultimately transform the delivery of health care services.
The Baughtom Line is this: We can’t have anything derail our efforts to improve the health of our community. All stakeholders need to remain committed to providing access to uninsured and underinsured Americans. Our entire community will benefit when the health of our residents improves.