BHN Exclusive: Health inequalities are not black and white

           I happened to check out a campus event on inequality and health after teaching my NU class last week. What I learned is that color is an issue, but not the only issue.

            Latinos, people from Asia and the Pacific islands, gays and people with developmental disabilities also have concerns.

(This last definition was invented as a more dignified way of describing “individuals with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy and other seizure disorders, sensory impairments, congenital disabilities, traumatic injuries, or conditions caused by disease (polio, muscular dystrophy, etc.))”

            “Usually, when we talk about health disparities, we’re usually talking about a black and white paradigm, but that paradigm is shifting,” said Ramani Sripada of MAP (Mass Asian and Pacific Islanders) for Health.  (Toll Free: 1-800-479-7251 –Their website seems to be down. )

            Health inequality means some groups have poor access to doctors,  insurance, nutritious food and space to exercise. But it also refers to different health outcomes, or rates of disease. For example, African-American women are less likely to develop breast cancer than white women, but more likely to die from it. (For more on the topic in general, see NIH’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.)

            Not enough scientists look specifically at these groups in their research, according to the speakers. For example, no one understands the high rate of cervical cancer among Vietnamese women, Sripada said.

            Judith Bradford of the Fenway Institute, said colleting data on LGBTs (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) is key to getting action on issues like higher rates of smoking, domestic violence and obesity.   

            “If your group isn’t measured by the folks fighting the battles, if they don’t have the numbers – it’s hard,” she said.  

            The program also included representatives of The Arc of Mass and The Latin American Health Institute .  (MAPP seems to be having some trouble with its web site so I’ll update it when I have more info.)  

  Also, check out the NYTimes story today on U.S. hospitals and immigrants.

 Many arrive with health problems seldom seen in this country – vitamin deficiencies, intestinal parasites and infectious diseases like tuberculosis, for instance – and unusually high levels of emotional trauma and stress. 

Over time, as they pick up Western habits, some develop Western ailments, too, like obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and yet they often question the unfamiliar lifelong treatments these chronic diseases need.



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