Food For Thought

As we have been debating the fiscal cliff and the failure to adequate address the national debt, I continue to wonder why a solution to the problem that is so obvious, fails to be included in any of the discussions that are taking place. One of the major reasons we are facing this crisis, the cost of health care and those contributing factors. Are we not including it in our discussions because of the linking impact of slavery and the perceptions that have resulted from it. That it is those people problems and not mine. That the disparities that result from an unequal health care system is a threat to my way of life? Let me say that the health disparities that this nation’s faces is as much a treat to it security as not having an adequate defense budget. And in some ways, it is a greater threat.

With that, let me throw out one suggestion and a video for all to listen to and think about, especially the ruling bodies (the President, the US House of Representatives and the US Senate). You may need to play the video over and over and over again until it dawns on you what may be an option that will be a win – win for all. Here is the video:

As the title of the video is named, “Health Disparities Impact Everyone.” Too often society readily associates health disparities with certain groups of people. This affliction also impacts the thought processes of the ruling bodies of this country. All fail to realize that health disparities have a much bigger target – everyone. What is not realized is the fact that any circumstance that serves as a barrier to receiving health care is considered a health disparity. For instance, in the city of Houston, we feel the impact of health disparities more readily than any other large city, even though we have the largest medical complex in the nation, if not the world. We are a city that has only two level I emergency room trauma units. Because we also have about one third of our population uninsured, those units are on diversion a larger percentage of time. In layman’s terms, the trauma units are not able to take patients. In more simple terms, even if you are Warren Buffet, the richest man in the world, there is no room in the inn for you. To me, that is a health disparity.

Most Americans, particularly white Americans don’t realize the impact of health disparities on the entire health care system. Specifically, it must be this lack of knowledge that has them say they want government out of their lives. For instance, it is that government support that keeps these level I trauma units open. Without these dollars, such emergency room would have to close their doors. Oh yes, the private sector, would you want to guess how many level one trauma now open would be left functioning if turned over to be run by the private sector? Now think about your child having a major head trauma. He just happened to have hit his or her head going for a cookie. Now, he or she is in need of that level one trauma unit and it is not available. You have insurance and you are rich enough to afford any type of care that is needs. But now it is not available because the only level I trauma unit is on diversion. That actually happened and the child died. That is a health disparity. But we continue to think of health disparities in terms of color. That is until it happens to you. Now think of the people on long island and what is taking place. However, do they think they are facing a health disparity. I don’t think so.

We need to have the mind set that health disparities is an American problem. We have to have that mind set long before it happens to someone you love. Everyone deserves the chance to live a healthy life. What if every man, woman and child — no matter their race, ethnicity, or age — were provided quality, comprehensive health care services firmly rooted in a robust and fully integrated prevention structure? What would our communities look like if every child had his or her full immunizations? How would family life be impacted if obesity, heart disease and diabetes became a footnote in history? How different would our lives be? And what if I were to tell you that to do this would save almost $4 trillion over the next decade; yes, four trillion dollars. That is the potential saving of reducing health disparities by 100%. But lets look at reducing health disparities for ALL AMERICANS by one third. What would the saving be, $1.2 trillion plus? What a win-win situation that would be, reducing the nation debt by improving the health of it citizens. Think about the economic impact that was trickle up. It would allow the President and the Republicans to continue to argue about taxes versus no new taxes while addressing the fiscal cliff; no cuts to defense, no cuts to other services. Think about the impact on jobs. No, think about the fact that this is the solution that no one is talking about. Yes, it is not easily done as said, but look at the alternative, not a pretty picture.

Lovell Jones, Ph.D.

Lovell Jones, Ph.D.

Lovell Allan Jones was born in Baton Rouge, La and was among the first African Americans to integrate school. He was also among the first undergraduates to integrate Louisiana State University, In 1968 he moved to California to continue his education, getting his Ph.D. with an emphasis in Tumor Biology & Endocrinology in 1977. He is now Research Professor at Texas A & M University Corpus Christi. In being bestow Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas Graduate School for Biomedical Science, became the first African American dual emeritus professor in the UT System, and probably one of the few, if not only in the United States. He was the director of the Congressionally Mandated Center for Research on Minority Health at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas and co-founder of the Intercultural Cancer Council, the nation’s largest multicultural health policy organization. While maintaining as active scientific program to change the nation’s approach to research dealing with underserved populations, Dr. Jones started writing essays on societal issues and the lack of progress in closing the health and health care gap almost two decades ago. His essays, on LOVELL'S FOOD FOR THOUGHT, have appeared in a number of publications, first appearing on his personal email list serve to over 2000 of his “friends.” Here is what WEB Dubois' Great Grandson said after reading this FOOD FOR THOUGHT: When my great-grandfather said in 1903 that "The problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the color-line." he was clearly stating the exact point that Dr. Jones makes. It was so clear to him that the prejudices rampant in America during that time were so deeply ingrained that they represented a barrier worthy of being considered in terms that would require, at minimum, a century to resolve. When I'm asked about Grandpa's quote today I tell people that the number has changed to the 21st, but the problem seems to be equally as intractable now, as intractable now, as then. He went on to write many things about the "color-line" and "The Veil" over his 95 years. One that I find most succinct and touching is attached. It comes from his 1920 book "Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil". I think it lends insight and historical perspective to Dr. Jones' statement" ...that slavery is and continues to be a source of evil. An evil that we truly have never addressed. For it prevails in our biases, those subconscious innocent biases that play out on a daily basis."