By WANDA REESE
Capital News Service
LANSING — When Rep. Michael Murphy introduced legislation to improve the health of minorities in Michigan, he didn’t know his call to action would translate into startling results in at least two national research studies.
Murphy, D-Lansing, said his House bill is aimed at calling the Michigan health care community to task for years of delivering substandard health care to the state’s minority populations. Murphy said the time to not only recognize that serious disparities exist – but to take action – is long overdue.
“The bill basically addresses the fact that there are major disparities in the quality of health care for minorities – especially among our black and Hispanic communities in Michigan — and that it has been a continuing problem for far too long,” Murphy said.
“The intention of the bill is to draw attention to the issue and to close the gap for a healthier population.”
The legislation would add a new section to the Public Health Code, requiring the Department of Community Health to take aggressive action in upgrading health care for minorities statewide.
A key component of the measure would be the development of an awareness program designed to educate health and social service providers about the special health care needs of minorities.
Locally, the Greater Lansing African-American Health Care Institute is working to educate area residents about these disparities. The institute is a nonprofit organization in partnership with the Ingham County Health Department in getting the message out.
“We assess the status of African-American health in Ingham County,” said Brenda Evans, director of the Institute.
In a booklet titled “African-American Health Matters,” the organization talks about the state of African-American health in Ingham County. The publication was co-authored by Michigan State University’s David Walker Research Institute, the Ingham County Health Department, and the institute.
“We found that despite an overall improvement in health, black Americans continue to lag behind the white population in receiving proper health care,” Evans said.
For example, Evans said, African-Americans in Ingham County lose 10 years of life to heart disease, compared with a four-year loss for whites.
“Lifestyle and other health-related behaviors, including emotional health, the surrounding environment, health care systems and genetic factors all influence whether a person will have a major health problem such as heart disease.” Evans said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in America for African-Americans – claiming the lives of more than100,000 each year.
It accounted for 33.8 percent of deaths among African-American men, and 40.8 percent of deaths among black women in 1999.
Nationally, a report published by the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that minorities received lesser quality care than whites both for serious conditions and routine services.
“We have to understand the factors that cause preventable disease and death in our community,” Evans said. “We want to reach out to the community and continue to link people to resources and resources to people in order to eliminate health disparities.
For more information, contact the institute at (517) 492-0376.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By WANDA REESE