Addressing Racial Health Disparities Could Prevent Deaths
Former Surgeon General David Satcher, director of the Center of Excellence on Health Disparities, on Friday said that the elimination of the "black-white mortality gap" in the U.S. would prevent more than 83,500 deaths among blacks, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. At a National Academy of Social Insurance conference on health care disparities, Satcher, a professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine, said that blacks have a lower life expectancy and higher risk for chronic diseases than whites because of such disparities.
The conference focused on boosting the use of Medicare to help reduce health care disparities.
Satcher said that disparities in the health care system result from "the uns -- people who are uninsured, underinsured, underserved, underrepresented, uninformed and who are untrusting because of experiences they've had." He added, "We have to focus on those uns."
In addition, Satcher said that Medicare is "a very good system" and has made a "major step forward" with the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, although the program has led to confusion among beneficiaries and requires improvements.
A report recently released by the NASI "Study Panel on Medicare and Markets" finds "significant racial, ethnic and income-related disparities in preventive care, primary care and essential medical and surgical treatments" that "will become even more important in the future as the proportion of minorities among the elderly population and among Medicare beneficiaries continues to increase."
According to the report, 30% of black Medicare beneficiaries have diabetes, compared with 18% of white beneficiaries. However, the report states that Medicare "cannot immediately close a gap in health status caused by a lifetime of disparate care."
The report recommends improved access to health care providers for minorities; increased efforts to enroll minorities in programs that supplement Medicare; expanded educational and outreach services; and increased efforts to educate providers to improve diversity and cultural competence (Hendrick, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/7).