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NewsOne and Tom Joyner present BlackAmericanAgenda, the six issues we feel are the most important for Black Americans in this election year. Let it be your yardstick for measuring the merits of the politicians and parties on which you’ll be voting in November, bullets of wisdom for the ballot box.

For a list of all the BlackAmericanAgenda issues, CLICK HERE.

BlackAmericanAgenda | HEALTH

The Issues | The Backstory | Numbers To Know

An Expert Says | What We’d Like To See | Policies To Support


  • Poverty and discrimination and contribute to inferior health care for black Americans.
  • Black Americans have marked health disparities compared to their white counterparts.
  • Black Americans have worse health care experiences than their white counterparts, even when they are insured.
  • Black Americans are less likely to receive preventative care.
  • Very little progress has been made in closing long-standing health disparities.


It’s a stark fact that quickly puts the gravity of the health status of African Americans into sharp focus: If you’re born black in this country, your life expectancy is shorter than that of whites. In fact, blacks have higher death rates than whites for diabetes, cancer, heart attack, stroke, HIV/AIDS, asthma, influenza and homicide.

Lack of access to healthcare and negative experiences within the health care system contribute to these disparate outcomes for Black Americans. Compounding factors such as the stress of dealing with racism or living in low-income areas with poor air quality has been shown to increase diseases such as high blood pressure and asthma, respectively.

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, 38 million African Americans will have coverage in 2016 that they would not have had without the act, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The act also increases the income guidelines to be eligible for Medicaid. Insurers are also required to cover wellness prevention tests such as HIV/AIDS for at-risk populations, colonoscopy and blood pressure and diabetes screening among other things at no additional cost to the insured.


  • In 2010, 44 percent of African-Americans in comparison to 62 non-Hispanic Whites used employer-sponsored health insurancel.
  • Twenty-eight percent of African-Americans in comparison to 11 percent of non-Hispanic Whites relied on Medicaid, government-funded health insurance for the very poor.
  • Almost 21 percent of African-Americans in comparison to about 12 percent of whites were uninsured.
  • According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, blacks received worse quality care than whites on 41% of 182 quality measures. Latinos received worse care than whites for 39% of 171 quality measures.*
  • The prevalence of diabetes among blacks is 70 percent higher than among whites.
  • The death rate for cardiovascular disease is 30 percent higher among black than whites.
  • The infant mortality rate is 2.3 times higher among blacks compared to whites.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control (except *: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)


Grant Jones, founder and executive director of the Center for African-American Health in Denver, wants blacks to know they are not predestined to poor health. Lifestyle and culture play a big factor.

“When it comes to health, our family history loads the gun and our culture and lifestyle pulls the trigger,” added Jones.

For example, doctors may screen for cancer earlier if you have a family history of the disease. If you have a family history of cardiovascular disease, doctors might treat a case of high blood pressure more aggressively.

Socio-economic status and education are “cultural determinants” to good health, said Jones.

“Take a single parent mom working multiple jobs. She might understand that fast food is not the best choice but the options are limited especially if they live in a location that is a ‘food desert,’” said Jones.

“The easier choice for this mom is to big up three Big Macs for $4 as opposed to shopping and preparing a $10 meal. Our families are forced into choices they know are not the best choices.”

Education helps people to understand that the easy choices are not really easy. They could have deadly consequences. Efforts must also be made to bring more fresh fruits and vegetables to areas that are now food deserts.

The same issues arise with environmental racism. African Americans may live in areas with less healthy air for example, which can exacerbate asthma.

Part of the solution is that African Americans must begin to value their health before they get sick. It’s not the best idea to wait until there is a stroke or heart attack to begin exercising, said Jones. It’s also going to take repeated reminders from credible messengers such as the church, parents and leaders to improve the health of African Americans.

Michelle Obama’s child anti-obesity efforts is a great example of the type of education efforts that are necessary to make a difference,

Policy changes such as the Affordable Care Act, which will provide coverage to millions of uninsured African Americans and focus on preventative care. The act will allow many more blacks to have a regular primary care doctor, which is a key to good health, said Jones.

“We need to think about health care like crime. We can take the approach of building more and more prisons or we can swim upstream and focus our efforts on prevention.,” said Jones.


  • African Americans knowing more about their family medical history
  • African Americans treasuring their good health and think about it while they are still healthy.
  • Attention paid to the messages about health that we translate to our children.
  • Positive attitudes about a healthy lifestyle to our children, neighbors and community at-large.
  • Increased effort to decrease health care disparities among African Americans.
  • A declaration of war on diseases that can be prevented such as obesity, diabetes and HIV/AIDS that are having a devastating and disproportionate impact on black Americans.
  • An improvement in the level of primary care available to African Americans.


  • Requiring insurance companies to pay doctors for the quality of care rather than the amount of time spent or number of services performed on a patient. Managed care organizations have been calling for the changes for years and now the Affordable Care Act has created the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation that is exploring implementing similar changes to the massive federal health programs.
  • A massive public health and education campaign, similar to what New York City is doing in regards to sugary drinks and smoking, to help blacks focus on understanding how their family history affects health, preserving their good health, and transmitting healthy messages to the next generation.
  • An expansion of the Affordable Care Act to restore preventative funds to the Affordable Care Act so that we can fund preventative health initiatives aimed at groups most in need.
  • The organization of a political action committee designed to make sure the act is not repealed regardless of which party controls the White House or Congress.
  • Invest in community groups and arm them to lead broad public health initiatives that teach African Americans about health similar to public efforts to reduce smoking, educate the public about HIV/AIDS and displaying food calorie content on restaurant menus.
  • Increase early childhood health literacy efforts by requiring health education and mandating physical activity.
  • Laws that protect African Americans from environmental racism and issues such as pollution by limiting how many polluting facilities such as waste transfer treatments or chemical plants can be located within a single area.
  • Increase efforts to provide low-income communities with better access to fresh fruits and vegetables such as the New York Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund which is based on Pennsylvania’s Fresh Foods Financing Initiative. Since 2010, the New York effort has provided $6.14 million in grants and loans to seven supermarkets across the state which has improved access to nutritious food for more than 24,000 people.

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