By Tyra Wilkes
Special to the AFRO
The inaugural “Health Disparities,” report from the United Health Foundation (UHF) highlights the inequalities across race and ethnicity, education, and gender in the District of Columbia. It reinforces the notion that poverty charges interest and illustrates the areas which Black residents have been forgotten as D.C. continues to redevelop.
The remnants of impoverishment and lack of access have affected specific groups more significantly than others for generations and the outcomes of that circumstance have had a severe impact, as demonstrated by the UHF.
Notable takeaways from the report are the high disparities between those with less than a high school education and college graduates and the higher risk for maternal or infant mortality in Black populations.
Adults with less than a high-school education suffer in comparison to their college-educated peers, in large part due to the requirements for jobs that pay a livable wage and offer adequate healthcare.
A 2016 review of D.C. voters revealed that less than two percent of White residents over 25 were non-college-educated versus over 70 percent of Black residents. On a national scale, the UHF found that households led by an adult without a high school education experience food insecurity at a rate six times higher than college graduates. This number has seen a 15 percent increase in recent years. Consider that data in a city whose majority non-college population is Black with three-fourths of food deserts being in Wards 7 and 8—both whose population is 92 percent Black.
Alongside the education gap, UHF says that though numbers have decreased nationwide, Black infants continue to have the highest infant mortality rate in the U.S.
Here in the District, the urgency around maternal mortality amongst Black women reached the Mayor’s office, who convened a Summit to determine the cause behind these deaths, and hopefully, uncover a solution to mitigate the rising number of cases.
In the initial announcement, District Mayor Muriel Bowser said, “This summit is about addressing issues that affect mothers, babies, and families here in D.C. and across the entire nation, and talking about solutions.”
“By working together, we can move closer to ensuring all women have access to high-quality healthcare before, during, and after childbirth,” Bowser continued.
Access to quality healthcare throughout pregnancy and after is crucial to the safety and survival of mothers and children. Due to the closing of the only public obstetrics ward in 2017, the majority Black neighborhoods east of the Anacostia river must travel west for labor and delivery, and per DC Policy Center, those communities rank lowest in income and highest without access to a car.
The figures presented in the Health Disparities report demonstrate the connection between inequities impacting communities of color, and what D.C. citizens endure as a result of systemic hurdles that have visible and lasting effects on access to food, healthcare, and education.
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