• This past week there have been a number of news articles about the Black AIDS Institute study on the racial disparities among those living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. The New York Times pointed to the part of the study that said that if one only counted the African American population in the U.S., the country would have the 16th highest rate of people with AIDS:
Nearly 600,000 African-Americans are living with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, and up to 30,000 are becoming infected each year. When adjusted for age, their death rate is two and a half times that of infected whites, the report said. Partly as a result, the hypothetical nation of black America would rank below 104 other countries in life expectancy.
The Washington Post's coverage of the study focused on the Institute’s criticism of the federal government’s approach to addressing the AIDS crisis in black communities:
African Americans with HIV -- at least 500,000 -- are more numerous than in seven of the 15 "target countries" in the Bush administration's global AIDS initiative, which has spent about $19 billion overseas in the past five years.
A DMI Blog posting last Thursday also discussed the study and questioned whether the next President would choose to focus on tackling racial disparities in the American HIV/AIDS population, or would continue to ignore the issue:
The bottom line is that the HIV epidemic in the US continues to spread, and at a rate greater than was previously thought. The real measure of political leaders and the American people is if this bad news spurs good action – the establishment of a comprehensive and accountable national AIDS strategy that will eliminate barriers to effective prevention, generate adequate resources, and hold the government accountable for ending this epidemic.
• The Kaiser Health Disparities Report has pointed out that new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the presence of racial disparities in the current U.S. infant mortality rates. According to the new data, black infants are 2.4 times more likely to die before they turn one year old than white infants are:
CDC officials say the higher rates in large part can be attributed to low birthweights, shorter gestation periods and premature births. Experts say that it is difficult to identify a link between race and higher infant mortality but noted that higher rates of poverty, limited access to health care and dietary differences are possible contributors.
• An editorial in last week’s Los Angeles Times discusses how rising food prices are actually likely to increase obesity rates in the U.S., not decrease them. In many other parts of the world, an increase in food prices leads to an increase in rates of hunger (not obesity). However, the article points out that obesity has a lot to do with the type of food people consume, not just the amount:
Obesity isn't simply about too much food. It's about the type of food, how it's prepared and the balance of calorie intake with physical activity. Stress and social conditions can also play a role.
Obesity rates have long been more prevalent in poor communities in the U.S. - the article also points out that the states that have the highest rates of obesity also have the highest proportion of families living in poverty. People living in poor communities, particularly poor communities of color, must have access to healthy food in order to prevent these health disparities from becoming more extreme. To learn more about inadequate health care access in communities of color, read the CERD report to the UN, Unequal Health Outcomes in the United States.
• An essay in The New York Times discusses how the American Medical Association’s apology for its past racism towards black physicians and patients brought to light the historical split between the AMA and the National Medical Association, a group that represents black physicians. The essay pointed out that while last month’s apology was an important step in bridging the gap between the two organizations, more needs to be done to overcome the inadequate representation of black physicians in the medical profession:
Yet reminders of this rancorous history persist, and the A.M.A.’s apology remains pertinent, if long overdue. Consider this statistic: In 1910, when Abraham Flexner published his report on medical education, African-Americans made up 2.5 percent of the number of physicians in the United States. Today, they make up 2.2 percent.