White Privilege and Health Care

We have all heard the buzz surrounding the Flint, Michigan water crisis. Flint residents are victims of “environmental racism” because race and poverty factored into how they were not adequately protected from the harmful chemicals in their tap water. Nearly 40 percent of Flint residents are currently living below the poverty line, and 57 percent of people residing in Flint are black. Community advocates are protesting, demanding for justice, and sharing their views with the social media community. Michael Moore tweeted on December 19th, 2015, “this is racial killing. Flint MI is 60% black. When u knowingly poison a black city, u r committing a version of genocide #ArrestGovSynder”. Regardless if you believe the story of Flint, Mi. is in fact a hate crime, or if you believe that the media twisted the facts, there is a larger issue affecting our nation.

Recently, in an epidemiology course here at JMU, our class began to look at incidence and mortality rates among the black and white populations in the United States. It was shown that across a span of various diseases, more whites had contracted the diseases than blacks. However, when examining the same graph, it showed that although whites acquire the diseases more often, when black people acquire the disease, they are more likely to die from it. This is due to access to health care. White people are more likely to get screened for various cancers and diseases with health insurance while blacks are not. A study published by the American Journal for Public Health estimated that “over 886,000 deaths could have been prevented from 1991 to 2000 if African Americans had received the same care as whites”.  As a nation, our health care has improved dramatically since World War II. For minorities, this progress came at a much slower rate. The current life expectancy for black people was the life expectancy for white people 30 years ago. 

Health care is a huge debate among politicians today. It is ever-changing, complex, and confusing to the average American. So how do we erase indifference in the health care system? We vote! But don’t even get me started on voter registration restrictions…..

-Colleen Knell


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