Obama focuses on African American health

With African Americans most likely to suffer from or be at risk for some of the most devastating illnesses, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama recently called attention to health care in the African American community and revealed his plan

With African Americans most likely to suffer from or be at risk for some of the most devastating illnesses, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama recently called attention to health care in the African American community and revealed his plan for action, should he be elected Nov. 4.

In an Oct. 9 telephone press conference that several members of the Black Press, including the Defender, participated in, Obama said his presidential administration would focus on prevention, while ensuring that all Americans, especially minorities–including African Americans–have adequate access to health care.

When it comes to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers, in general, minorities fare worse than their white counterparts. African Americans tend to suffer from those diseases and conditions more disproportionately than Hispanics and whites.

Some 2.7 million African Americans have diabetes, the nation’s fifth deadliest disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. The agency also indicates that African Americans are 1.6 times more likely to have the disease than whites.

Additionally, heart disease, the leading cause of death, kills more Black men (330 per 100,000) than white men (258 per 100,000), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“African Americans continue to have poor health,” Obama explained in the press conference. And while he called access to health care “universally important,” he said that it is “especially important in the African American community.”

That is punctuated by the CDC’s reporting that 12.7 percent of African Americans are in fair or poor health.

Despite Obama’s belief that “nobody in America should be wanting for health care,” the CDC indicates that 42.6 million people lack health insurance in the U.S.

Eighteen percent of the nation’s uninsured are African American, the government agency indicates.

But Obama said that his presidential administration would work to close health care disparities by, for one, converting to electronic billing and medical record keeping, in an effort to help drive down the cost of health care.

For those with health insurance, Obama explained, their premiums would decrease and their deductibles would be reduced by as much as $2,500.

Additionally, Obama explained that he would better fund screenings for AIDS–which is on the rise among African American women–and prostate cancer, which is claiming the lives of African American males at a rate nearly twice that of white men.

He said his health care reform, which would also provide “strong incentives” to push prevention, would cost an estimated $65 billion to implement.

Critics of Obama’s economic plans say the plans, including the ones for health care reform, put the already cash-strapped nation in a spending frenzy that further burdens taxpayers.

However, the Illinois senator explained that the money wouldn’t necessarily come from new spending but instead from a reassessment of money already in place.

Obama said he would roll back some President George W. Bush tax cuts and toy with the idea of eliminating some programs to fund his health care reform. Especially on the chopping block, he explained, would be Medicare programs that Obama says “hasn’t saved any money or improved quality of care.”

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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