HEALTH STATUS: Gap Between Whites And Blacks Grows
Although life expectancy has increased for all groups of Americans, "when it comes to health, studies show a stubborn, daunting and in some respects growing disparity between black and white Americans," the New York Times reports. Research shows a "widening gap between blacks and others in the incidences of asthma, diabetes, major infectious diseases and several forms of cancer." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "from 1980 to 1994 the number of diabetes cases rose 33% among blacks, three times the increase among whites." According to the American Cancer Society, black men's death rates from cancer increased 62% from the early 1960s, compared with 19% among all American men.
Researchers have not found clear answers for the gaps in health care. The Times reports that along with higher poverty levels among blacks, "[l]imited education, violence and addiction" are "partly to blame." However, in the 1990s, the Times reports, "poverty among blacks has shrunk, and gaps in income have narrowed," without a concomitant increase in health status. White House health administration analysts are finding "growing evidence that race, discrimination and social and cultural factors influence the care people receive and, consequently, their health." White House health care adviser Chris Jennings said, "[E]ven if you control for [economic status], race is huge. If you pull out education, race is still huge."
In The Works
Plans implemented by the Clinton administration have made a "little more headway against the gap than those of prior administrations." Although prenatal care, nutrition and immunization programs have resulted in lower death rates for newborns, the number of deaths of black mothers in childbirth "jumped 48% from 1987 to 1995 ... compared with 7.6% for all mothers." Blacks still have two times the infant mortality rate of whites. The White House is currently developing a proposal designed to "eliminate the gap after 2000." And in his State of the Union speech, Clinton is expected to ask for more money to "improve minority groups' health." Clinton may additionally ask for "revisions of government health programs so that additional people like nurses and physicians in minority communities join in working on the stubborn roots of the gap." In addition, Clinton's advisory panel on race "has begun soliciting testimony on health." Health care analysts say "solutions require attention to the health conditions of the very young, before the effects of poverty, toxic environments, bad diets, violence and untreated disease" can take effect. James Smith, a senior economist at the Rand Corporation, said, "Policy that only deals with people in their 50's is going to have a minor impact on eliminating differences because a series of health shocks has happened already" (Kilborn, 1/26).