Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The ongoing holocaust

I'm fired up, and I'm also pretty well pissed off. Spending the day at the New England Regional Minority Health Conference just stirs up all that bile about the grossly misplaced priorities of the corporate media. Here's one very simple way of getting across a big idea. Former Surgeon General David Satcher and colleagues back in 2005 used vital statistics to figure out how many excess deaths would be prevented every year in the United States if the mortality gap between white and black people were closed.

The answer is 83,570. As one of the co-authors, Adewale Troutman told us yesterday, that is equivalent to loading up a jumbo jet and crashing it into the ground with no survivors every single day, not for a week, not for a month, not for a year, but year after year, apparently forever, since this gap is not getting any narrower.

But you probably didn't know that because the only public health issue in the world is influenza.

It is not only African Americans who die prematurely, of course. Poor health and premature death are the likely fate of everyone who is socially disadvantaged. Poverty, poor nutrition, an unhealthy physical and social environment, inadequate education and lack of opportunity for fulfilling work, social subordination and lack of control over one's circumstances, discrimination -- these are the sources of health disparities. Health equity is the civil rights movement of our time, because it encompasses every element of a just society. Health equity has little to do with medicine. It has to do with agricultural policy, land use policy, transportation policy, educational policy, economic policy -- public health is about everything.

It's much easier to talk about influenza because it has nothing to do with difficult questions of justice and equity. Rich white people are interested in it because it affects them, just the same as everyone else. It's not a threatening subject at all. It has no political content. As far as I know, Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow have exactly the same opinions about it. So that's why we hear so much about it.


Bix said...

"Health equity is the civil rights movement of our time."

Loved that.

kathy a. said...

very good.

Anonymous said...

yes very good.

We hear so much about the flu also because if one third of workers suddenly went missing due to an epidemic it would affect the rich -BAU- very badly.


C. Corax said...

Hmmm. Massachusetts is all 1st quartile, except for "avoidable hospital use, etc." which is 3rd quartile. Because of teaching hospitals, perhaps? Nice to know that we dropped down on the list since we instituted Romney's mandatory insurance law.