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ENEWS: Racial and Rural Health Care Disparities

Date Published: 06/29/2020

Author: Jane Leonard

Racial Health Disparities Demand Action…

Racial health disparities demand renewed attention from policy-makers as Minnesota struggles to dismantle systemic and institutional racism. A recent report from the African American Leadership Forum provides context and strategic framing that deserve careful consideration. The AALF report identifies seven “basic pillars of support” for erasing disparities:  increase knowledge of race-related trauma and healing; encourage African Americans to seek mental health resources; develop community resources and services for healing from trauma; create better collaborations and partnerships to meet community needs; increase knowledge about healing from racial trauma within the medical community; anticipate trends in work on healing from trauma; and share research to increase public awareness. The Twin Cities AALF  has long been a trusted source of information and inspiration for Growth & Justice.  It is a data-driven, people-empowered movement of over 1,500 African Americans who self-identify as thought leaders, influencers, builders, and ambassadors. AALF is developing innovative programs that connect African American businesses, people, and industries by creating spaces that empower the Black community to share ideas, celebrate, and work together to bring about change.

…While Rural Health Care Access Declines,Too…

Meanwhile, a new report from the Center for Rural Policy and Development provides a cogent analysis of the factors driving the disappearance of rural hospitals and access to basic health care services in Greater Minnesota.   From the introduction to the report:  “Since the 1980s, the hospitals, clinics, physicians, specialists and services available in Greater Minnesota have been quietly going away.  Many of these services have been lost to consolidation of services by healthcare systems… Now, Covid-19 and the measures that were taken at hospitals and clinics to prepare for it have severely undercut revenues for hospitals everywhere. Many rural hospitals were already operating at zero margins or worse. Without specific policies to address their plight, rural Minnesota will only lose more services and more facilities as healthcare systems cut expenses and deadweight in their fight to survive.” 

The Pandemic's Adverse Impact by Race & Ethnicity… 

The Center for Disease Control released a chart showing higher rates of hospitalization or death for certain ethnicities and racial identities due to COVID-19. The chart indicates Native people and Black people are hospitalized or die from coronavirus at a rate of about 5 times higher than that of white people, and Latinx people at a rate of about 4 times higher. The chapter “Healthy People and Communities” of our Minnesota Equity Blueprint dives into the ways geography, race and income affect access to high-quality health care, and details proposed solutions to health inequities, such as expanding access to affordable health care, strengthening community-based health care programs, and creating successful racial equity health initiatives. In this piece from The Conversation, IUPUI scholars Tamika Zapolski and Ukamaka Oruche write about how the pandemic has disproportionately affected African Americans, and how racism in U.S. health care impacts African American health and lives.

... & a Personal Note on the Village of Health Heroes

Over the past few years my family has experienced first-hand the village it takes to provide health & well-being services to seniors who want to live at home, as long as they are able to, in rural Minnesota. My Dad, Rod Leonard, recently passed away at 90 years of age, living on his own, as he wished, on our family farm in Mille Lacs County – right up until three weeks before he died. It took an informal team of local people (to whom I am deeply grateful) to help him do that: a patchwork and loving quilt of neighbors and friends, part-time (and low-paid) home helpers, and doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals. All of these caregivers struggle every day with financial and operational challenges, as noted in the story above, yet remain dedicated to care giving. We must dedicate ourselves to them, to the people and communities who help our loved ones and help us. We must mature beyond a market-based framework in health care today, to shatter racial and rural disparities with the hammer of justice -- to build equitable, inclusive, and affordable health care that serves people and pays its workers fairly. (By Jane Leonard, president of Growth & Justice)


“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” – The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

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