Opinion: Minority Healthcare Disparities Must Be Addressed in Congress and Georgia
By Congressman David Scott (D-GA)
It is no secret that access to healthcare is one of the most important issues facing our country today. Throughout my years in public service, from the Georgia legislature to the U.S. House of Representatives, I have made it one of my main objectives to ensure and promote the health and well-being of my fellow Georgians, especially those populations who have been hardest hit by the gap in access to services and increasing disparities in care.
As we observe National Minority Health Month, I believe it is of utmost importance that Congress continues to work together towards improved healthcare for all Americans, with an added focus on these communities and the disparities that continue to exist.
The facts are that minority Americans have worse health status, more chronic conditions, lower rates of insurance coverage and less access to care. This is a sad state of affairs. Furthermore, African Americans are more likely to use the emergency room as a main source of medical care. This further demonstrates the fact that many of these individuals have no access to a family doctor, have no insurance to speak of and in most cases have put off seeking care, which only further increases the cost of healthcare for others.
While healthcare disparities are said to be diminishing somewhat, these gaps are not closing fast enough. African American women are less likely to have had a mammogram in the last 2 years and children are 2 times less likely to have seen a doctor in the last 2 years. Additionally, numerous studies show that minority populations are more likely to acquire and die from high blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, cancers and diabetes. This is an unacceptable situation that has persisted for far too long.
As a state that is home to numerous first-class healthcare organizations ranging from esteemed medical schools and hospitals, to the Centers for Disease Control and beyond, Georgia is a key place to focus our efforts. Innovative approaches must be put in place and all involved must be at the table to address this issue.
Doctors, patients, managed care plans, hospitals, communities, businesses, civic clubs and churches should all have a say and want to contribute to the discussion as disparities in healthcare affect us all. A reasonable amount of brain storming and rational thought could spur great results.
I want to make certain minority communities are not ignored and the numbers in these studies addressing healthcare disparities are not just hollow statistics. Rather, we need to recognize that these numbers represent real people with real problems, and make a serious effort to improve upon them.
I have recently joined several of my colleagues in signing on to a letter in support of the National Center for Health Statistics, which will ensure we have the adequate data we need to identify health disparities. This data will provide the basis for understanding and identifying disparities in health and allowing us to target culturally specific, effective and appropriate public health campaigns.
Representing Georgians is more than just casting votes in Washington. I strongly believe that the most important part of being a Member of Congress is helping people. We all have a stake in maintaining and improving upon Georgia’s healthcare system and further addressing the discrepancies in care.
I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure healthcare continues to be at the forefront of our discussions. It is of utmost importance and Georgians deserve no less. I am here to work for Georgia, and I will continue to put forth a dedicated effort towards quality and fair minority healthcare initiatives.
Congressman David Scott represents Georgia’s 13th District in the House of Representatives, where he serves on the Financial Services, Agriculture and Foreign Affairs Committees.