A college professor once told me a relationship between crime and infant mortality doesn’t exist. At the time, I heeded his logic because I needed to complete the paper. Now, in retrospect, I beg to differ.
Each day I hear about a black man, woman, or child losing his or her life due to violence, disease, or injury. Although these aren’t all attributable to crime, there a growing awareness in the public health field that being black is a risk factor for poor health outcomes. Consider this, blacks have a shorter life expectancy and higher morbidity and mortality rates than most other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.
Public health officials have known for decades that the state of black health is an alarming public health concern with relatively few community-based programs yielding reducing the black health risk. Poor health outcomes for blacks are not exclusively associated with class status. For instance, college educated black women face higher levels of infant mortality that white women with less than a high school education. In fact, the disparity gap remains despite income, education level, or insurance status.
Many doubt the importance of race as well as the use of race in determining health policies, reporting health data, or developing community health agendas. But, something is truly wrong when there are more than 8,000 excess black deaths occurring each year. These deaths are unfortunate and often preventable.
Although the U.S. spends billions to close the gap, relatively little improvement has been made and in some instances, the gap has widened. In other words, researchers, administrators, and public health officials are getting paid to develop and implement programs, but the end result are ineffective programs, dismal outcome improvements, and salaries to people (mostly outside of the target populations) paid.
I admit that finding the solution is not clear and simple; but, it will take acknowledgement of the fact that individual behaviors must change but public health and the health care system must also change. To truly make a difference, policies and programs must be directed towards shifting cultural views, norms, and practices. This includes intergenerational information that shapes what people eat, how they cook, how they socialize, how they access health care, how they share health information, how they care for the young, and how they see themselves as part of society.
Tough tasks, but they must be done.