Addressing Heath Disparities During Black History Month and Beyond

Addressing Heath Disparities During Black History Month and Beyond

While Black History Month is a time to celebrate the achievements of African Americans, it is also an opportunity to raise awareness and address pervasive health disparities impacting Black communities. The 118th Congress can advance a policy agenda that supports communities of color and provides key investments for social determinants of health. Lawmakers must seize this opportunity in the months ahead.

It is well-known among physicians that diseases such as asthma, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity are disproportionately afflicting minority populations, particularly African Americans.

Today, Black Americans:

    • Remain more likely to be uninsured than White populations.[1]
    • Are more likely to have negative health care experiences.[2]
    • Are more likely to suffer from a stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes and die at early ages from all causes.[3]
    • Have the highest mortality rate for all cancers compared with any other racial and ethnic group.[4]
    • Are more likely to have medical debt at every age.[5]

Existing disparities are the result of a confluence of factors including living conditions and lack of access to insurance and quality care. While the gap in health coverage between Black and White populations narrowed after the passage of the Affordable Care Act and again due to policy changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, persistent health challenges remain for Black Americans as health insurance alone cannot remove every barrier to care.

The United States needs a comprehensive, community-driven approach to reduce health disparities and achieve health equity. Lawmakers, community-based organizations, and public health advocates must work together to realize this vision. The new Congress presents a chance for a fresh start for bipartisan cooperation. For the first time in the nation’s history, a quarter of voting members of the U.S. Congress identify their race or ethnicity as something other than white.[6] This is welcome news because a Congress that looks more like the nation it represents helps build trust and understanding among communities of color.

The Health Equity Collaborative will continue to conduct research and monitor the development and implementation of relevant policies. Our diverse community of advocates and health professionals looks forward to engaging with members of Congress and the Biden Administration to advance health equity in the months ahead. It’s time for all Americans to receive the care they deserve.