Now that the health care bill has passed the congress, it looks to start a new era of the way the USA takes care of our citizens. Still the bill can not stop America’s health problems. There is a problem with race and health in this country.
Still, there are large disparities in other areas of health between Blacks and whites. Black people are three times more likely to have a stroke and three times more likely to have diabetes than white people.
One of the major issues that divide African Americans and whites, in terms of health, is access to healthy food. Many of the health issues that African Americans suffer from come from bad diets. African Americans are 50% more likely to suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure, which, along with diabetes and strokes, is caused by bad diets.
Obesity is a major problem for America’s health care system. Treating obesity costs $147 billion dollars a year, almost 10% of annual medical costs. According to a recent study, 36% of African Americans are obese, compared to 24% of whites.
A lot of African American obesity problems come from traditional diets and lack of knowledge about what a good diet is. Another problem for African Americans is lack of options for healthy food.
In many urban African American neighborhoods, there are plenty of options for fast food, but not that many options for healthy food. A study from the University of Pittsburgh came to the conclusion:
Without access to supermarkets, which offer a wide variety of foods at lower prices, poor and minority communities may not have equal access to the variety of healthy food choices available to non-minority and wealthy communities.
While health food trends like, fruit smoothies, turkey burgers, and tossed salads and healthy supermarkets, like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have been popping up in upper class, trendy neighborhoods, they are hard to find in the working class, minority neighborhoods. Many minority neighborhoods are filled with corner stores that offer snacks, candy and very few options for health food. Soda and drinks with high fructose corn syrup are in abundance in many of these stores, while natural juices are hard to find and expensive.
A recent study by Horowitz found that only 18% of bodegas, or small grocery stores, in a minority neighborhood carried a selection of healthy foods compared with 58% of similar stores in a predominantly white area.
Fast food and junk food companies are constantly marketing themselves directly to Black people. Chains like Popeye’s, KFC and McDonalds spend a lot of advertising money to make sure Black people keep on buying their unhealthy products.
If we are truly to fix health care, we cannot just focus on treating diseases, we also must prevent them. Making sure every citizen has the opportunity to maintain a balanced, healthy diet should be a priority in whatever health care bill that the government passes. Tax breaks should be given to businesses that offer healthy alternatives and chains that only sell fatty, unhealthy foods should be taxed for revenue to fund health care.
We also need to educate children about the importance of having a healthy diet. PSA’s like The Truth anti-smoking campaign should be used to keep people away from eating unhealthy foods. Students should be given culinary classes and home economics classes that encourage a healthy, balanced diet.
There are a lot of options for healthy, nutritious, tasty foods out there. Unfortunately a lot of these foods are limited to the rich, and are far out of reach for many people in Black neighborhoods. If these options were given to all people, our health care system would have less of a burden and all people would be happier and healthier. The fast food system in America is in need of an overhaul, not unlike the auto industry. Just like health care should be right for every American, access to health food should be too.
Politicians need to encourage businesses that promote healthy foods and tax businesses that serve food that is unhealthy. Many of the problems that burden our health care system come directly from unhealthy foods and bad diets. If the American people ate better foods and had better diets, the biggest cost of health care on the economy could be greatly lowered and we would have a happier, healthier, more active country.