Thursday, September 10, 2009
The Real Health Care Plan: Our Community by Akindele Akinyemi
I listened to President Obama's health care speech to a joint session in Congress last night while I was at State Senator's Hansen Clarke's health care town hall discussion that was sponsored by WDET 101.9 FM and Wayne State University. While I was listening to the panel discuss health care and solutions one panelist said something that stuck out in my mind.
He said there are over 200,000 people without health insurance in the City of Detroit. The city only has 871,000 residents. That's too many people to be without health insurance. Add a 28.5% unemployment rate and that spells disaster.
The poor state of health of blacks has been attributed to disproportionately large incidences of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States. These diseases are the major causes of decreased longevity, decreased quality of life, and poor treatment outcomes among blacks. The elimination of health disparities in the United States is a high-priority need because research indicates that blacks (and other people of color) live with more morbid conditions that negatively affect the quality of their lives and die at a younger age than our Caucasian counterparts.
Heart disease is about 40% higher among blacks than among Caucasians,and strokes are more likely in blacks than in Caucasians. Cardiovascular disease mortality in blacks aged 20-74 years is at least 35% higher than in Caucasians. Certain modifiable risk factors, including hypertension, high cholesterol, tobacco use, obesity, and lack of exercise are the main targets for primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Under girding health disparities are factors that directly affect the health of blacks and other people of color, such as education level, socioeconomic status, communication barriers between health care provider and patient, and overt discrimination.
There are some things we need to consider when we discuss health care without the rhetoric. For one, we need to practice prevention. When you pick up that cigarette, that pork chop or steak and continue consuming this behavior over and over again what do you think is going to happen to your body eventually? Try exercise and a better diet. This alone can reduce the chances of people getting diabetes.
However, we can only go so far with that. Some things that happen to us is hereditary. Things like bad cholesterol or cancer running in the family may not be so preventive. Therefore, we need to look at some avenues in terms of expanding coverage of perinatal, cancer and other chronic diseases.
When I talk about health care I am not just talking about it from the Democrat vs Republican issue (which is a waste of time because both plans add to the national debt). I am also speaking of environmental issues. This is just not an urban issue. You can live in the sticks and drink poor quality of water with high bacteria that can cause health disparities.
For those who live in South Poletown/Dequindre Yard (in Detroit where we have the largest incinerator in North America) the asthma rate is higher than anywhere in the State of Michigan. Asthma is a growing concern in this country, particularly in inner-city African-American and Latino populations. Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness and is the second most important respiratory condition as a cause of home confinement for adults. Each year, asthma causes more than 18 million days of restricted activity, and millions of visits to physicians' offices and emergency rooms. A recent study found that children with asthma lose an extra 10 million school days each year; this problem is compounded by an estimated $1 billion in lost productivity for their working parents.
But it does not stop there. We have environmental issues in Southwest Detroit in 48217 that are not properly addressed. This is the largest black population in this area but others such as Arab and Latinos are affected as well. We must expand this health care debate outside of what the media wants us to talk about.
Whether President Obama's plan will work depends on its implementation. What I mean by this is some feel that his plan will not work because of costs. However, what people need to understand is that our health care system is broken and must be fixed. Instead of adding on to the national debt we need to seek ways to bring affordable health care to our door steps instead of looking towards Obama's plan as the only solution. Which I know is not the only solution.
One thing I did appreciate him saying is the value of competition. Now he is talking my language. The same way we need educational choices to bring forth competition to make products better and more affordable is the same way we need in the health care system. In the urban community we need all the competition and "a la carte" menus of health choices we can get because the urban community is hit the hardest. We have a McDonalds, Burger King, White Castles, liquor stores and coney islands on every corner in our community. Do we have a choice to go in and purchase the food or liquor of our choice. Yes we do. But that same mentality of capitalism is killing our people. It would be different if the food had a different quality. In Dearborn, MI there is a Kentucky Fried Chicken that are owned by Arabs that sells Halal chicken to people. In Oak Park and West Bloomfield, MI there are Jewish people who sell kosher chicken to people. Both Arabs and Jews live longer than blacks in Detroit. I do not think I even seen a Church's chicken in Dearborn or West Bloomfield.
Remember St. Ides? Remember how many rappers were promoting this malt liquor, which by the way 8.2% of alcohol by volume, which puts it at the high end even for the high-alcohol malt liquor category for American large beers. This beer was specifically targeted in large urban communities. You see, we promote our own demise in our community.
On the flip side, when I go into the suburbs I see better quality restaurants and less liquor stores. I see Whole Foods and Good Foods Centers. I see actual grocery markets and produce stores. Our mindset has to change. The culture must change if we are serious about health care.
Blacks continue to suffer disproportionately from a number of diseases that result in chronic disability and cause premature death. In spite of the advances in medical science and the development of more effective treatments and innovations in health care delivery, substantial disparities remain between blacks and the general population in physical and mental health and in the delivery of health care services.
Speaking of mental health issues we cannot get distracted as urban conservatives with the mainstream media fascination of health. Mental health is a crisis in the urban community and is rarely discussed at great lengths. Part of the mental health crisis is the number of schools administering drugs into our children to calm them down because they have been labeled as ADHD or LD. Most of these children are not even close to being that, however, because some do not understand the behaviors of our children the solution are drugs. This is far from the truth. The solution is diet and meditation. If you change the diet of the child and be consistent that child will expel any poison from his/her body.
Mental health leads to hypertension, heart disease and other ailments in our body. People who normally practice racism, sexism, paranoia and fear have mental health challenges. Do we wait for the government to give the solution or can we solve this in our churches and mosques?
You see, urban conservatives do not have to wait for President Obama because we believe as a group that we can craft solutions that will help supplement what the President is trying to accomplish. We have to illustrate the effectiveness of partnerships with the black church to provide health education and social support such as weight reduction programs and drug abuse prevention programs; use of mutual assistance groups to augment health care for people with chronic illnesses; other community-centered initiatives; and educational and behavioral strategies targeting health care utilization, medical compliance, and the promotion of wellness. This all goes back to our belief that faith based and non-profits must work together to create a wholistic approach to health.
As urban conservatives we believe in promoting mental health professionals who will focus on strengthening families and building social competence and emotional skills. These include competence development models to enhance the family's capacity to build competence and self-esteem in their children and frameworks that assist families in examining relationships and understanding, alleviating, and preventing violence as a means of coping with stress.
While many thought I was going to attack the President's plan for health care reform that is not the case here because the bottom line is that we have to learn to take care of ourselves. Churches can lead that effort. For example, the Seventh Day Adventist Church promote health living by teaching their people to be vegetarians. Yorba Linda, CA is one of the most healthiest city in America. The city is ran by the Seventh Day Adventists. This is a model that urban conservatives can take and apply to other urban cores while the structure of health care reform is taking shape in Washington D.C.
Partnering with other community health resources rather than relying solely on internal church resources could help our community. A majority of the church goers in our community have one or more cardiovascular risk factors that could be significantly reduced by lifestyle changes; therefore, a concerted effort by church health ministries to implement lifestyle behavior change programs is necessary.
I will be truthful and honest that it is true that a large portion of the state's racial and ethnic minorities,including blacks, face significant barriers to health care,including obtaining coverage for treatments and medications prescribed by their providers. More Michigan doctors are finding their ability to care for their patients negatively impacted by third parties. Combined with the cost of treatment, these health disparities can make it extremely difficult for patients to manage their disease and maintain a quality of life. What I heard from President Obama was a mix of Democrat and Republican ideas for this health plan. Regardless of what the outcome will be in the near future we must be committed to improving the lives of urban people and others across the state. We have to take those steps first not the federal government.
Urban conservatives cannot get distracted with antics such as Congressman Joe Wilson from South Carolina calling President Obama a liar. Or RNC Chair Michael Steele denouncing the plan. If Mr. Steele is going to denounce the plan then he is supposed to bring forth an alternative health care plan to the urban community (which he and many other Republicans failed to do). This is real leadership. Anything else is pure distractions that we do not need. If you do not like President Obama's plan for health care then please present an alternative plan other than holding up bills in a joint session of Congress. That's not good enough. Also, it might help to come into areas that are impacted the hardest like Highland Park, Muskegon, Detroit, Inkster, River Rouge, Ecorse, Flint, Saginaw and Benton Harbor to actually listen to the stories. I heard the stories last night at Wayne State University. It's time for the GOP to overcome fear and paranoia if they wish to seek support from minorities and the American public.
We must promote the practices of managed care so that physicians can act in the best interests of their patients, and without interference from outside influences such as monetary incentives or fears of punitive actions.
Faith based and non-profits must focus and develop networks that will provide health education to the residents of the urban underserved communities; training community health workers through distance learning programs: tracking health concerns; and generating health data profiles. The network would also give doctors and staff in area hospitals and health centers the connectivity that would ultimately result in an integrated medical record for over 200,000 Medicaid recipients and low-income citizens of Detroit. One of the major goals of the project is to provide the clinical professionals, serving the most disadvantaged citizens of our community, access to the Internet, E-mail, clinical information systems, library information, patient information and medical research data bases.
It's interesting that we always come back to education. The number one issue that any conservative needs to talk about is education. Health care reform, the economy, ideologies, eradicating racism, etc. are all tied in with education. Urban conservative have ALWAYS been consistent on our platform with education because we strongly believe that an educated population with family building will produce wealth creation in a community.
Lastly, part of urban renewal in urban communities is health care reform. Policymakers need to understand the connection between health, spirit and community. Black men and women have the highest occurrences of hypertension, diabetes, and hospitalizations for stroke. The prevalence of obesity is highest among black women. Hispanics were least likely to have health insurance, receive influenza or pneumococcal vaccinations, and have the highest rates of poor or fair health.
Let us create a model that can be attached to the best health care plan that will suit our needs. If we successfully implement a plan like this we can move forward to helping others globally. We have a commitment to improving our own health, creating a health care plan that people in our community can afford and push for a handup instead of a handout plan to bring people back to great health.