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By Robert "Rob" Redding Jr.

Editor & Publisher

March 9, 2009, 1 a.m. There is an embarrassing gap in health care in America as it relates to blacks. The cultural difference of growing up black in the American health care system is a modern day nightmare for many physically, mentally and spiritually. Some of these differences are cultural but many have to do with race, beliefs and access to care for treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, asthma, cancer, diabetes, glaucoma, suicide, depression, knee replacements and end of life care. What's more, the historic systemic repression of blacks coupled with a distrust of the white-dominated medical establishment exacerbate the problem.

Disparities, distrust and disinterest are still problems for blacks as it relates to health care:  Blacks struggle with disparities in health care, according to the Boston Globe. What's more, they are "twice as likely” to distrust the medical system, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  These "borderlands" or chasms between the races have been the problem. And a new release found on the AScribe Newswire may further build on this chasm because diversity numbers within the medical field continue to lag. A survey conducted at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in late January said only 12 percent of underrepresented minority faculty were satisfied with the institution's racial and ethnic diversity, and only 21 percent of underrepresented minority faculty agreed that their university was not biased, compared to 50 percent of majority faculty. The study concludes: "Notably, more than 80 percent of all groups of respondents believed they would be in a career in academic medicine in five years. However, only 42 percent of underrepresented minority faculty said they would still be at Johns Hopkins in five years, compared to 70 percent of majority faculty."

Being able to obtain or maintain health is a major challenge: The physical treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, glaucoma, suicide, depression, knee replacements and end of life care are challenges within the black community. Specifically, blacks distrust AIDS awareness, according to the Chi Town Daily News. Some black gay males still say they are unaware of HIV/AIDS risk, according to the CDC. Blacks are "nearly three times as likely as whites to die from the disease," according to the Boston Globe. They are more likely to have a leg amputated while receiving diabetic care, according to USA Today. An increased risk of cardiovascular problems has been noted in the black community, according to Medical News Today. Blacks have higher rates of early kidney disease, according to MSNBC. Cancer rates have increased to 1981 levels, according to USA Today. 

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Specifically, skin cancer is deadlier in blacks due to underdiagnosis and misdiagnosis, according to WTSP. Lung cancer treatment for black and whites is unequal, according to New American Media. Prostate cancer rates are more than two and a half times higher in blacks, according to scientists at the University of Nottingham in the UK. Fibroids are more common in black women over age 35, according to Medical News Today. Finally, when blacks do receive treatment for cancer they are more likely to find themselves in a health insurance "nightmare," according to U.S. News & World Report.

The spiritual and mental state of blacks are also in limbo: What's more, blacks are also having problems with their mental and spiritual state as well, according to NPR. Mental illness is reaching staggering levels and is going untreated in many parts of the black community and suicide rates are climbing, according to NPR. And although blacks had been more prone to not commit suicide due to stronger spiritual ties more access to weapons has caused rates to climb, according to NPR.

A nearly 100-year-old culture of suspicion of the white-dominated medical establishment is still a problem: Education level is listed as the main reason many blacks "keep their children from participating in clinical trials," according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Post-Gazette reports: "Suspicion of the medical establishment has been inscribed on the consciousness of many black people because of events such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, researchers said. In that study, 399 black men with syphilis were left untreated - and prevented from seeking treatment even after penicillin, which could have cured them, was discovered - for 40 years, between 1932 and 1972, so that the effects of the disease could be studied."

When some blacks do go to the doctor, the culture of racism that is ingrained in American health care makes the services provided inherently unequal: ''When black patients go to the doctor, they're more likely to be treated by a doctor who can't harness the full capabilities of the health care system," Dr. Peter B. Bach, an epidemiologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and lead author of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, told the Boston Globe. The Globe reports: "...studies have shown that access to health insurance is a factor, and some have found that doctors consciously or subconsciously discriminate against black patients." "The federal government has set a goal of eliminating racial disparities in health care by 2010," the paper reports.


Appleby, Julie. "Study: More blacks than whites must lose a leg to diabetes." USA Today. 5, June 2008. 21 Feb. 2009. < health/2008-06-04-amputee_N. htm>.

AScribe Newswire. "Study Confirms Persistence of Diversity Problems in Academic Medicine." 30 Jan, 2009. 21 Feb. 2009. < cgi-bin/ 20090130.064755&time=07%2009% 20PST&year=2009&public=0>.

Associated Press. "Skin cancer more deadly in Hispanics and blacks, study suggests."  WTSP 2006. 21 Feb. 2009. < news/mostpop/story.aspx? storyid=33776&provider=top>.

Dembner, Alice. "Disparities found in health care for blacks." The Boston Globe. 5 Aug. 2004. 2. Feb. 2009. < articles/2004/08/05/ disparities_found_in_health_ care_for_blacks/>.

Galbreath, Carol. "New study finds blacks still lag in obtaining total knee replacements for arthritis"  Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. 19 Feb. 2009. 21 Feb. 2009. < news/bnitem.aspx?name=49901106 >.

Gardner, Amanda. "Cancer Patients Often Stranded in Health Insurance Nightmares." US News & World Report. 5 Feb. 2009. 21 Feb. 2009. < articles/health/healthday/ 2009/02/05/cancer-patients- often-stranded-in-health.html>

Goswami, Neelam. "Too much sex = Increased Prostate Cancer Risk." The Med Guru. 27 Jan. 2009. 21 Feb. 2009. < too_much_sex_increased_ prostate_cancer_risk-86120304. html>.

Medical News Today. "Study Finds Fibroid Growth Differences Between Black, White Women." 3 Dec. 2008.  21 Feb. 2009. <http://www.medicalnewstoday. com/articles/131592.php>.

Medical News Today. "Black Glaucoma Patients Have An Increased Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease Death, Study Finds." 12 Mar 2008. 21 Feb. 2009. <http://www.medicalnewstoday. com/articles/100330.php>.

News & Notes.  "Suicide Rate Among Blacks Is Cause for Alarm." 27 March. 2008.  NPR. 27 March 2008. 21 Feb. 2009. < story/story.php?storyId= 89151091>.

News & Notes.  "Black Men Overcoming Stigma of Depression." 31 March 2008.  NPR. March 31, 2008. 21 Feb. 2009.< templates/story/story.php? storyId=89238847>. 

Paul, Kleyman. "Lung Cancer Treatment For Black and Whites Unequal." New American Media. 6 Feb. 2009. 21 Feb. 2009. <http://news.newamericamedia. org/news/view_article.html? article_id= c1722843a1aeac8644370c903a8044 7e>.

Parker, Alice. "Study finds minorities distrust AIDS awareness messages" Chi Town Daily News. 20 Feb. 20, 2009. 21 Feb. 2009. <http://www.chitowndailynews. org/Chicago_news/Study_finds_ minorities_distrust_AIDS_ awareness_messages,22790>.

Reuters. "Early kidney disease often missed in blacks" 28 Jan. 2009. 21 Feb. 2009. < 28895776/>.

Schaarsmith, Amy. "Blacks mistrust health research" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 4 Feb. 2009. 21 Feb. 2009. < pg/09035/946744-114.stm>.

Smith, Stephen. "Asthma rate higher in US-born blacks, Dorchester study finds." The Boston Globe. 1 Dec. 2008. 22 Feb. 2009. < health/articles/2008/12/01/ asthma_rate_higher_in_us_born_ blacks_dorchester_study_finds/ >.

Stein, Rob. "At the End of Life, a Racial Divide" The Washington Post. 12 March 2007. 21 Feb. 2009. <http://www.washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/ 2007/03/11/AR2007031101565. html>.

Szabo, Liz. "Racial gap in cancer deaths as wide as in 1981" USA Today. 17 Feb. 2009. 21 Feb. 2009. < health/2009-02-17-cancer- deaths-race_N.htm>.

Weinstein, Steve. "CDC: Young Gay Blacks Unaware of Unsafe Sex Danger" "CDC: Young Gay Blacks Unaware of Unsafe Sex Danger" 10 Feb. 2009. 21 Feb. 2009. < index.php?ch=news&sc=&sc2= news&sc3=&id=87061>.

(Redding is the editor & publisher of the award-winning Redding News Review and a nationally syndicated talk show host).


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