Blacks and Latinos Still Struggle with Access to Good Health Care

Isaiah Newsome, right, is seen with his aunt Kristine Minter, from left, cousin Brandy Minter and mother, Charice Williams. (Photo: Tessa Lengeling/IowaWatch)

Isaiah Newsome likes to play sports and hang out with friends, like any 17-year-old. But most of the time these activities are cut short as his body, stricken with sickle cell anemia since birth, fills with pain.

“It just randomly happens,” Newsome of Des Moines said. “There’s no really preventing it or seeing it coming.”

Getting insurance to cover his health care adequately all of these years has not been easy, but at least he has has had insurance the past year. Some other African-American families in Iowa with low incomes do not, adding to difficulties they face getting health care.

A University of Iowa Public Policy Center study in December 2013 put the problem into perspective, showing that African-American and Latino Iowans do not have the same access to adequate health care that Asian and white Iowans have.

The Public Policy Center went on to say in its report, which used data from a child and family health survey conducted in fall 2010 and spring 2011, that Iowa’s African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to need medical care, even though they are more unlikely than Asian or white Iowans to receive it.

The disparities are a result of varying factors, the Public Policy Center report said, including a lower quality of care in general, higher-than-normal unmet need for care, poor diets, a higher likelihood to seek care from a hospital emergency room, and fewer safe and supportive neighborhoods.

Social aspects, including someone’s poverty level, neighborhood, culture or race, account for 90 percent of what affects health status, the study’s authors concluded.

“The causes of health disparity vary, but we need to look beyond health care,” said Dr. Peter Damiano, the director of the Iowa Public Policy Center and its health policy research program. “Iowa needs to be looking at behavior, genetics and environment.”

Disparity is defined as a lack of similarity or equality.

Newsome’s mother, Charice Williams, did not have health insurance for herself or her children until she signed up under the Affordable Care Act in 2013.

“Even though I am low-income, I am still over income for things. Everything goes by your gross income instead of what you really bring home as your net pay,” said Williams, who works part time for the city of Des Moines so that she can spend time caring for her son.

The Public Policy Center study focused on the several factors that create the disparity, including overall health status, insurance coverage, need and access to care, lifestyle, and family and social environment.

The study pointed out that more than 90 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander and white children in Iowa had an overall health rating of “excellent” or “very good.” This compares with a 76 percent health rating in the same categories for African-American children and 69 percent for Hispanic children in the state.

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SOURCE: Tessa Lengeling
IowaWatch.org

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