Martin Luther King Day 2017
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated to the Medical Committee for Human Rights in 1966.
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., is a celebrated human and rights activist. He often spoke of the inequalities of health care especially regarding minorities. As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day 2017, let’s look at the inequalities of health care in the US.
Has our health care system improved? Yes, in many ways it has improved.
However, in many ways it remains the same.
According to the World Health Organization, even 40 years after Dr King provided the above comment these are the statistics in the United States:
- African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans have rates of diabetes that far exceed those in non-Hispanic whites.
- African American women are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer compared to white women and have the highest rate of mortality.
- Native Americans report more alcohol consumption and binge drinking than other racial/ethnic groups.
- Hispanic males age 20 or younger have the highest prevalence of obesity compared to non-Hispanic whites and African Americans.
- African American men and women are more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than non-Hispanic whites.
- Infant mortality occurs in African Americans 1.5 to 3 times more than in other races or ethnicities.
The Centers for Disease Control conducted an extensive study of health care disparities. One of the interesting topic in this study is food. Food is one of the most basic human needs. And healthy foods are often a precursor to either good health or poor health. However, if you live in an area where getting to the grocery story is problematic then getting good food is an issue. You need transportation, the ability to carry the food, the ability to afford the food and the ability to know what to buy. All of these are issues if you are poor, old, don’t own a vehicle or have some other reason for not being able to access a grocery store. And sometimes it can be just a matter of not knowing what to choose when you go to the grocery store.
Another area of health care disparity is on-the-job injuries which is not something you would typically consider as a health care issue. However, some times minorities are undocumented and therefore less likely to report injuries. Another consideration is the number of children that work, typically in rural environments where again, on-the-job injuries might go unreported.
Asthma is also more prevalent in the minority population. Many reasons have been attributed to this fact:
- When you live in close quarters, it is more common to share respiratory illnesses
- Older buildings typically can contain asbestos and mold
There is a link between children raised in households where there is smoking, whether inside or outside, have a higher incidence of asthma
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in 1929 and was assassinated in 1968. His words still ring true however, many years later...Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Nurses are on the forefront of health care and we have the power to improve health care for all our patients. Patient education can be as simple as providing written material regarding healthy food, asthma prevention and health care maintenance. Depending on your practice situation, you might be able to even further impact health care. Some suggestions:
- Volunteer at a free clinic
- Mirror healthy food choices for your family
- Utilize your organization’s education materials - share them
- Make yourself aware of free resources for your patients to obtain medical care, prescriptions, and other information
Another of Dr Martin Luther King’s quotes was: Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?
And in the end...that is what we must ask ourselves.
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25+ year(s) of experience in Heart Failure, Nephrology, ER, ICUJan 13, '17Thanks for this, traumaRUs. I've felt really sad, angry, and helpless since the election. With the dismantling of the ACA and no clear plan in place for any type of replacement for it, health disparities will only get worse. This serves as a reminder that the best thing I can do to get through a period of difficulty is to try to help others in any way I can.Jan 13, '17So what is MLK's legacy except to accept his clarion call to advocate for a more equitable society across the board.
Why he should have paid for this basic plea for human rights with his life is incomprehensible to me.
But in a way he and his legagy live on in those who have the guts to fight for what is right despite the destruction of reputation and curtailment of one's livlihood and even in Martin's case one's life
So in return for his gift of elevating the national dialogue about how as a country would like to see ourselves, we owe this good person the return gift of making his dreams a reality every day we live.
They just don't make them like him anymore.
So without mythological embellishment, I can't think of a better man who ever walked in the way of the man who stilled the waters.Last edit by Buyer beware on Jan 13, '17 : Reason: wJan 14, '17I have seen mistreatment of African Americans in a CA hospital. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. Where I come from (Tampa, FL) a very diverse hospital, I had never seen this. I had managers from Brazil and Africa. I am a Caucasian nurse. That's not to say it doesn't exist at all here, but I had never seen it in many years of nursing. Anyway, in CA these nurses told me I had to take the patient because I was a traveler and the patient was black! Even the charge RN was doing it. They made him out to be a troublemaker! He was nothing of the sort! He was so sweet and appreciative of my care! I gladly accepted my assignment, we got along just fine even though many of the other nurses had got into verbal altercations with him! I told the staff I don't think like that!
I'm still surprised that this horrible behavior exists, and it makes me very sad. I did report the incident higher, but I don't think anything happened to those nurses. I too feel like we've taken steps back. I think many people of all races agree that African Americans are being done an injustice, but what are we doing about it? Not enough. Our voices aren't heard because we aren't speaking loudly enough. If we all stood together to fight the mistreatment of African Americans, we might have a better outcome than African Americans only.Jan 15, '17Anyone that has a sincere interest (everyone?) in the message of Dr. King has the obligation, at least, to read his "letter from a Birmingham Jail". Here it is...
Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]
Take it for what it is. The themes are what they are and his ultimate animating motive is clear.
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