Category Archives: African American Health

Obama administration will target hard-to-reach uninsured in next enrollment period


ACA health reform logoBy Mary Agnes Carey

The health law’s upcoming enrollment period may be its toughest yet, with federal officials promising a vigorous outreach campaign to enroll millions of eligible yet hard-to-reach Americans who have yet to sign up for health insurance.

“Those who are still uninsured are going to be a bigger challenge,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Tuesday in remarks to the Howard University College of Medicine.

This year’s enrollment campaign will be harder in part because officials will be pursuing those who have declined to sign up for health insurance during the two previous enrollment seasons.  Continue reading


Diabetes in the US population


Glucometer showing a blood sugar of 105From the National Institutes of Health 

Diabetes is a disorder in how the body uses glucose, a sugar that serves as the body’s fuel. In type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t make insulin, a hormone that triggers cells throughout the body to take up glucose from blood.

In type 2 diabetes—the most common type—the body doesn’t make or use insulin well. Both types can lead to heart, kidney, nerve, and eye diseases over time.

Hispanic Americans had the highest prevalence of diabetes at 19-23%, with up to 49% of that undiagnosed. About 21-22% of non-Hispanic black adults had diabetes, with up to 37% undiagnosed.

Non-Hispanic whites had the lowest prevalence of diabetes at 10-11%.

To assess how common diabetes is, researchers at NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) analyzed data collected in CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES is a periodic survey of a representative sample of the U.S. population.

Recent surveys included blood tests and other measurements. The researchers, led by Drs. Andy Menke and Catherine Cowie, examined data gathered from almost 2,800 people during the 2011-2012 survey cycle. The study was published on September 8, 2015, in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Continue reading


Longevity and health in later life vary greatly by community in L.A.

3-D Perspective image of the Los Angeles Basin from the Landsat satellite using NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) for topography information. The vertical scale is exaggerated one and half times.

3-D Perspective image of the Los Angeles Basin from the Landsat satellite using NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) for topography information. The vertical scale is exaggerated one and half times.

By Anna Gorman

report on aging in Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest county and one of its most diverse, shows wide disparities in life expectancy among different ethnic groups and neighborhoods.

Overall, the life expectancy for Los Angeles County residents was about 82 years in 2011, up from nearly 76 in 1991, according to the report by University of Southern California’s Roybal Institute on Aging. Much of that can be attributed to drops in coronary heart disease, strokes and lung cancer, the report noted.

But African Americans can expect to live to an average of about 76 years whereas the average for Asians and Pacific Islanders approaches 86 years, the report said.

And residents who have reached the age of 50 in the more affluent western part of the county are expected to live about five years longer than those in largely poor South Los Angeles.

Similarly, researchers found stark differences among ethnic groups when it comes to chronic disease. Latinos in L.A. County aged 50 or older have nearly double the rate of diabetes as whites, and older African Americans have a much higher rate of hypertension than other ethnic groups. Continue reading


Racial gap in attitudes toward hospice care


By Sarah Varney

BUFFALO — Twice already Narseary and Vernal Harris have watched a son die. The first time — Paul, at age 26 — was agonizing and frenzied, his body tethered to a machine meant to keep him alive as his incurable sickle cell disease progressed.

When the same illness ravaged Solomon, at age 33, the Harrises reluctantly turned to hospice in the hope that his last days might somehow be less harrowing than his brother’s.

Their expectations were low. “They take your money,” Mrs. Harris said, describing what she had heard of hospice. “Your loved ones don’t see you anymore. You just go there and die.” Continue reading


How Obamacare went south in Mississippi



In the country’s unhealthiest state, the failure of Obamacare is a group effort.

By Sarah Varney
KHN / October 29, 2014

The lunch rush at Tom’s on Main in Yazoo City, Mississippi, had come to a close, and the waitresses, having cleared away plates of shrimp and cheese grits, seasoned turnip greens and pitchers of sweet tea, were retreating to the counter to cash out and count their tips.

It didn’t take long: The $6.95 lunchtime specials didn’t land them much, and the job certainly didn’t come with benefits like health insurance. For waitress Wylene Gary, 54, being uninsured was unnerving, but she didn’t try to buy coverage on her own until the Affordable Care Act forced her to. She didn’t want to be a lawbreaker.

Months earlier, she had gone online to the federal government’s new website, signed up and paid her first monthly premium of $129. But when her new insurance card arrived in the mail, she was flabbergasted.

“It said, $6,000 deductible and 40 percent co-pay,” Gary told me at the check-out counter, her timid drawl giving way to strident dismay. Confused, she called to speak to a representative for the insurer Magnolia Health. “’You tellin’ me if I get a hospital bill for $100,000, I gotta pay $40,000?’ And she said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’”

Never mind that the Magnolia worker was wrong — her out-of-pocket costs were legally capped at $6,350. Gary figured with a hospital bill that high, she would have to file for bankruptcy anyway. So really, she thought, what was the point?

“This ain’t worth a tooth,” she said.

She canceled her coverage.

The first year of the Affordable Care Act in Mississippi was, by almost every measure, an unmitigated disaster. In a state stricken by diabetes, heart disease, obesity and the highest infant mortality rate in the nation, President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law has barely registered, leaving the country’s poorest and perhaps most segregated state trapped in a severe and intractable health care crisis. Continue reading


Medicaid ADHD treatment under scrutiny



Amid national concerns that too many children are being medicated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), some state Medicaid programs are stepping up oversight of diagnoses and treatments.

By Christine Vestal

ATLANTA – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, affects one in every seven school-aged children in the U.S., and between 2003 and 2011 the number of children diagnosed with the condition rose by more than 40 percent.

Doctors have considerable leeway in deciding the best course of treatment for a child with the condition, no matter who is paying the bill.

But children covered by Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for the poor, are at least 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder.

Children covered by Medicaid are at least 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder.

Georgia alone spends $28 million to $33 million annually on these treatments out of its $2.5 billion Medicaid budget, according to the Barton Child Law and Policy Center here at Emory University.

That is partly because of the toll poverty takes on kids and a lack of resources in poorer schools. But some states believe there are other factors at work.

Several have begun to investigate whether doctors and mental health providers who bill Medicaid for ADHD are rigorously using evidence-based guidelines when diagnosing and treating it.

ADD by state

In Georgia, state Medicaid officials are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve the accuracy of diagnoses and the efficacy of treatments for the ailment.

Missouri and Vermont have also sought the CDC’s help in analyzing Medicaid claims data to determine how best to improve care for what has become the most commonly diagnosed childhood behavioral disorder. Continue reading


Federal judge blocks Texas restriction on abortion clinics


200px-Flag-map_of_TexasBy Carrie Feibel, KUHF
AUGUST 30TH, 2014, 10:18 AM

This story is part of a partnership that includes Houston Public MediaNPR and Kaiser Health News.

In a highly anticipated ruling, a federal judge in Austin struck down part of a Texas law that would have required all abortion clinics in the state to meet the same standards as outpatient surgical centers.

The regulation, which was set to go into effect Monday, would have shuttered about a dozen abortion clinics, leaving only eight places in Texas to get a legal abortion — all in major cities.

. . . state’s regulation was unconstitutional and would have placed an undue burden on women, particularly on poor and rural women.”

The regulation, which was set to go into effect Monday, would have shuttered about a dozen abortion clinics, leaving only eight places in Texas to get a legal abortion — all in major cities.

Judge Lee Yeakel ruled late Friday afternoon that the state’s regulation was unconstitutional and would have placed an undue burden on women, particularly on poor and rural women living in west Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. Continue reading


Jails house 10 times more mentally ill than state hospitals, report


Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 7.26.27 AMBy Jenny Gold

April 8, 2014 – In 44 states and the District of Columbia, at least one prison or jail holds more people with serious mental illnesses than the largest state psychiatric hospital, according to a report released Tuesday by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association. Continue reading


How states are tackling ‘health disparities’


Question Q&ABy Michael Ollove
Stateline Staff Writer

African-Americans are more likely to suffer heart disease and diabetes than whites. The cancer death rate for men is a good deal higher than it is for women.

American Indians and Alaska Natives are more likely to smoke tobacco than Hispanics, blacks or whites.

And Native Hawaiian adults are less likely to exercise than other ethnic groups.

These differences are called “health disparities,” and in the last two decades, the federal government and the states have focused on eliminating them. Continue reading


Why hospitals are failing civilians who get PTSD


Gunby Lois Beckett
ProPublica, March 4, 2014

More than 20 percent of civilians with traumatic injuries may develop PTSD. Trauma surgeons explain why many hospitals aren’t doing anything about it.

Undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder is having a major impact on injured civilians, particularly those with violent injuries, as Propublica detailed last month.

One national study of patients with traumatic injuries found that more than 20 percent of them developed PTSD.

But many hospitals still have no systematic approach to identifying patients with PTSD or helping them get treatment.

We surveyed 21 top-level trauma centers in cities with high rates of violence. The results show that trauma surgeons across the country see PTSD as a serious problem.  Continue reading


Men, minorities and the elderly not getting treated for depression


And younger man's hand holds an elderly man's handBy Milly Dawson
HBNS Contributing Writer

A leading cause of disability, depression rates are increasing in the U.S. and under-treatment is widespread, especially among certain groups including men, the poor, the elderly and ethnic minorities, finds a new study in General Hospital PsychiatryContinue reading


The PTSD crisis that’s being ignored: Americans wounded in their own neighborhoods


GunBy Lois Beckett
ProPublica, Feb. 3, 2014

Chicago’s Cook County Hospital has one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation, treating about 2,000 patients a year for gunshots, stabbings and other violent injuries.

So when researchers started screening patients there for post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011, they assumed they would find cases.

They just didn’t know how many: Fully 43 percent of the patients they examined – and more than half of gunshot-wound victims – had signs of PTSD.  Continue reading

Abortion thumbnail

Abortion laws force closure of women’s health clinics serving the poor

Abortion Knoxville-march-for-life-2013-3

Photo: Brian Stansberry / Creative Commons

By Jake Grovum, Staff Writer

New state restrictions on clinics that provide abortions could leave millions of women—many of them poor and uninsured—without easy access to cancer screenings and other basic health care services.

In recent years, abortion opponents have tried to limit abortions by barring them after a certain number of weeks and by requiring women who want to end their pregnancies to have ultrasounds. Those strategies target abortion directly.

Now abortion opponents in some states are pushing for new standards for clinics, such as requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, that may be difficult or impossible for them to meet.

Abortion rights supporters fear the new rules could force many clinics to close—a result that would make it more difficult for women to get a broad array of health care services, not just abortions.

“Every time a clinic closes, the women who would be using those clinics, it’s not as if those women stop existing,” said Kimberly Inez McGuire of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, an advocacy group. “It will affect whether women can get cancer screenings, whether women can get to a provider to get their blood pressure checked.”

“Clinics that serve women who may not have insurance are literally a lifeline,” McGuire said.

Fifteen states now require clinic doctors to have hospital admitting privileges, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.

In addition, 26 states require abortion-providing clinics to meet surgical facility standards, which stipulate everything from the size of certain rooms, the types of light switches used and the width of hallways.

Supporters say such requirements are common-sense public health measures. They cite high-profile examples of poor oversight and gruesome malpractice cases, most notably the Kermit Gosnell case in Philadelphia.

“What is so wrong about having high health standards in place?” asked Alabama Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, who sponsored legislation which includes clinic regulations and requirements for doctors that has been blocked by a federal judge. “If they would just do what was in the best interest of the patient, it would not be a problem.”

Opponents of such laws say they might close a vital health care entryway for women. In many states, the clinics offer services ranging from sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment to mammograms, Pap tests and cancer screenings.

They also offer family planning counseling and birth control services—in many cases at reduced fees for the uninsured.

In 2011 and 2012, the Guttmacher Institute conducted a survey of women receiving services at family planning centers located in communities in which there were other health care options.

About four in 10 women said they used a clinic as their exclusive health care provider in the past year. Among other reasons, the women said they preferred going to a clinic because staff there knew more about women’s health and it was easier to talk to them about sex.

The connection between the clinics, public health care programs and women’s health was further underscored by a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

The report noted that in many states, there are few providers willing to accept Medicaid or other subsidized insurance programs. In those places, the clinics are a vital, and sometimes the only, option for low-income people.

For example, in 2011 Texas blocked Planned Parenthood-affiliated health centers from receiving funds from the state’s Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

Prior to the funding cut-off, those centers were caring for nearly 50,000 patients. The program served 63 percent fewer women the year after the cuts, state data showed.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has also argued that clinic closings could damage women’s health. The group blasted Texas’ new abortion law and measures under consideration in North Carolina.

Those who back the laws argue the regulations would make the clinics safer.

So far, courts haven’t bought that argument, seeing laws that could shutter clinics as potentially unconstitutionally restrictive of abortion.

Courts already have blocked physician requirements in Mississippi and Alabama. Last week, Wisconsin’s law was temporarily blocked by a federal judge and advocates are preparing to fight Texas’ law as well.

“The courts have seen right through the arguments that this is somehow supposed to protect women’s health,” said Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is involved in the legal fights.  “These laws really hurt women’s health, not help them.”

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Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Center on the States that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.


Kidney Health Fest for African American Families – June 22nd


Northwest Kidney Center LogoOn Saturday, June 22, 2013, Northwest Kidney Centers will hold its 11th annual Kidney Health Fest for African American Families, featuring free health screenings, education, entertainment and healthy food made by local celebrity chefs.

The free event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Van Asselt Elementary (formerly the African American Academy), 8311 Beacon Ave. S., in Seattle, on Metro bus line 106. About 750 people attended last year.

Free health screenings. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., participants can receive a free kidney health screening and private consultation with a doctor about the results.

The screening includes a finger stick for a blood sample, urinalysis, blood pressure and weight check. Diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity all contribute to the current epidemic of kidney disease.

Educational presentations. A health education program from 10 a.m. to noon will be hosted by Chris B. Bennett, publisher ofThe Seattle Medium newspaper and talk show host on KRIZ/KYIZ/KZIZ Radio.

Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb, director of the Kidney Research Institute in Seattle, will be among the speakers. Himmelfarb is an international authority who can explain up-to-the-minute science in terms lay people can understand.

He will talk about the reasons why kidney disease is more common in African Americans than in Caucasians, and the latest thinking about ways to prevent and treat it.

Healthy, tasty lunch. At noon, noted local chefs will serve a free lunch. Donating their services are Jemil Johnson of Jemil’s Big Easy, Mulugeta Abate of Pan Africa, Theo Martin of Island Soul, Anthony Davis of AMD’s Catering, and Kristi Brown-Wokoma of That Brown Girl Catering.

Entertainment. The award-winning Pacific Northwest Drumline Association will kick off the day, and the energy will stay high with performances by electric fusion band Comfort Food, rapper Willa Scrilla, singers and musicians from the NAACP ACT-SO program, spoken word artists, the Liberation United Church of Christ choir, and more.

Special activities for children include an obstacle course and a visit from the Black Firefighters Association truck.

Focus on fitness. Edna Daigre from Ewajo Center, Ajene Bomani-Robertson from the Austin Foundation, and Jannine Young from Core Power Yoga will speak and get the audience moving with fitness demonstrations.

This year’s Fest is dedicated to the memory of Willie Austin, former University of Washington football player and power lifting champion. His Austin Foundation provides youth with vital access to fitness and nutrition. A regular and popular presenter at the Fest, he died unexpectedly April 24,2013.

Local churches are co-hosts, providing volunteers and encouraging attendance. They include Damascus Baptist, First AME, Freedom Church of Seattle, Goodwill Missionary Baptist, Immaculate Conception, Liberation United Church of Christ, Madison Park Church of Christ, Mt. Zion Baptist, New Beginnings Christian Fellowship, New Hope Missionary Baptist, Pentecostal Covenant Church, Southside Church of Christ, St. Mary’s, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist, and Walker Chapel AME.

Community partner organizations. More than 30 exhibitors will be on hand to share resources for healthy living.

“Everyone is welcome to attend the Fest, have fun and learn about kidney disease and healthy living – and it’s completely free!” said Dr. Bessie Young, a Seattle kidney specialist who has chaired the community organizing committee since the Fest began. “Bring your friends and family and make a day of it. People of every age can have fun while they learn how to keep their families healthy.”

One in seven American adults has kidney disease. In the African American community, the number increases four-fold. Although African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, 35 percent of individuals with kidney failure on dialysis are African American. In addition, African American men are 10 to 14 times more likely to develop kidney failure due to high blood pressure than Caucasian men in the same age group.

Participants in the Kidney Health Fest will learn how to improve their lives to avoid kidney disease. This includes:

  • Treating high blood pressure and diabetes, two of the leading causes of kidney failure.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Reducing added salt and processed, packaged and fast food.
  • Eating healthy to avoid obesity.
  • Exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Avoiding the overuse of pain relievers such as ibuprofen and naproxen, which can damage kidneys.

For more information about the event or to pre-register, visit The Twitter hashtag for the Fest is #healthfest.