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Civil Rights and Medical Leaders Call for Social Justice in Health Care
Date:9/27/2007

heart failure, causing needless suffering and death.

"Healthcare is the next battleground for civil rights", said Mr. Steele. "It is imperative that we inform our people. It is about a racial divide, as well as between rich and poor. People are being disenfranchised."

Mr. Shelton called for a comprehensive, aggressive approach to ending disparities. He illustrated the magnitude of the problem with statistics that, he noted emphatically, "... are as unthinkable as they are conclusive! African Americans are 23% more likely to die from various types of cancer than Whites. African American and American Indian/Alaskan Native infant mortality rates are more than 2 times higher than those for their Caucasian counterparts ... African American diabetics are more than 3 times more likely than Caucasian diabetics to have a lower limb amputated."

Other available data sources document that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in minority communities has reached catastrophic levels, with documented case rates for African Americans and Hispanics that are more than 10 times and 4 times higher, respectively, that those of White Americans. Black patients with kidney disease have a disproportionately high experience with dialysis, and a concomitantly low experience with kidney transplantation.

Dr. Akhter, alluding to the need for the system to accept responsibility for some of the causes of health status and healthcare disparities, stated that, "It's not the choices that people make, it's the choices that people have". Further, he said, "The American medical system was designed in the 30's to take care of White middle class men only, and that education system is still going to this day." This systemic bias must be changed, or efforts to create universal access will not bring about the desired improvements.

Dr. DeVaughn used treatment of heart disease as a model for understanding healthcare disparities. "Cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of all Americans," he
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SOURCE National Minority Quality Forum
Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.
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