Dear Valerie ,
On Monday, January 21, 2013, as we celebrate the 27th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and witness the inauguration of our nation’s first African-American President, Barack Obama, to a second term, it’s important to acknowledge both the symbolic and real victory this day will represent for the field of prevention and African-Americans.
While Dr. King is often heralded as a drum major for racial equality, many forget how his ever evolving theology began to address broader, systemic inequalities in health and wealth. Recognizing that ending racial inequality was just one facet of a broader civil/human rights movement, Dr. King began to focus his work on advancing “race-neutral” social and economic policies that would have a disproportionately positive impact on African-Americans and other disadvantaged groups. In 1966, while delivering the keynote address at the Second National Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Chicago, Dr. King, in an effort to bring national attention to an inadequate healthcare system, noted that, “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Forty-four years later, President Obama picked up Dr. King’s mantle and passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, the most significant regulatory overhaul of our nation’s healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid. The ACA will provide millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans with access to services and care that will not only improve individual health outcomes in the short-term but also save taxpayers billions in the longer-term. For African-Americans, however, the ACA represents a special victory. Unsurprisingly, African-Americans are disproportionately represented in the rolls of the uninsured and underinsured. As result, our communities tend to bear a disproportionate share of the health disparities caused by an inadequate healthcare system.
I’m confident if Dr. King were alive today he would herald the ACA as a shining example of how a seemingly “race-neutral” policy can have a disproportionately positive impact on improving the quality of life for African-Americans. Because of the ACA, an estimated 3.8 million African-Americans who would otherwise be uninsured will gain coverage by 2016. The 4.5 million elderly and disabled African Americans who receive coverage from Medicare now have access to an expanded list of preventive services with no cost-sharing. Four hundred and ten thousand (410,000) African-American young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 who would have been uninsured now have coverage under their parent’s health plan. An estimated 5.5 million African-Americans with private insurance now have access to preventive care services including well-child visits, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, Pap smears and mammograms for women, and flu shots for children and adults. And more importantly, major federal investments to improve the quality of care will ultimately improve the management of chronic diseases that are more prevalent among African-Americans.
So as we tune into the Presidential Inauguration and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Holiday, let us take a moment to reflect on the both symbolic and real significance of Monday, January 21, 2013.
Lastly, please remember that the ILAACP’s E-News Bulletin thrives off the content we receive from member organizations, individual members, and our E-News subscribers. To that end, we ask that you continue to provide us with information pertaining to key events, resources, legislation, developments, etc., impacting prevention systems, policies, and programs. With your help, ILAACP can continue to produce an electronic communiqué that works to ameliorate the health and social disparities adversely affecting underserved communities.
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Malik S. Nevels, J.D.