Monday October 2, 2006

Dying While Black

Two generations of blacks have seen the number of their neighborhood hospitals decrease by nearly 90 percent, and 90,000 fewer blacks than whites would die each year if they had the same death rate, according to Dying While Black, a book by a University of Dayton health care and race law expert due out in October.

Two generations of blacks have seen the number of their neighborhood hospitals decrease by nearly 90 percent, and 90,000 fewer blacks than whites would die each year if they had the same death rate, according to Dying While Black, a book by a University of Dayton health care and race law expert due out in October.

"Unhealthy people living in unhealthy situations - not having suitable access to a hospital or other health care or facing discrimination and racism - perpetuates poor health from generation to generation," Vernellia Randall said. "If experts believe child abuse is generational, why can't we believe it for health care?"

Randall, one of two Americans invited to discuss health issues with the United Nations' working group of experts on people of African descent, said African-Americans lag on nearly every health indicator, including life expectancy, death rates, infant mortality, low birth-weight rates and disease rates.

"We have shorter lives. We are quite literally dying from being black," Randall, a former registered nurse, told the Akron Beacon Journal.

Randall's recommendations include increasing the number of health care facilities and providers in minority neighborhoods, removing dump sites and providing incentives to change behavior as ways to improve minority health. She said institutions need to make changes rather than individual health care workers.

"Educating doctors and other health care workers is not the problem," said Randall, who is frequently quoted in the national media about health care and race law. "We need to make changes to institutions that intentionally or unintentionally set policies and procedures that have the effect of discriminating against blacks. If certain changes are made, it will not just help blacks but all minorities."

Because few discrimination suits are brought forth, the health care industry has no broad-based policies to eliminate racial discrimination, Randall said. She advocates adopting new civil rights laws to help eliminate disparities.

"We allow disparities to continue, because we're unwilling to do the things we need to do to address them," Randall told the Akron Beacon Journal. "(Society) wants to address them in an egalitarian way, as to say, 'See, it's not about race. It's about being poor.' Without focusing on race, the problem never will be fixed."

Randall will be taking a break from teaching this semester to discuss her book nationwide. She has speaking engagements Oct. 13 at a civil rights forum in Delaware; Oct. 20 at the National Lawyers' Guild in Austin, Texas; Oct. 31 at the Nebraska Minority Health Conference; and Nov. 4 at the Black Caucus of Health Workers of the American Public Health Association in Boston.

Stephanie Wildman, director of Santa Clara University's Center for Social Justice and Public Service, said Dying While Black is "essential reading for understanding how racial bias taints the delivery of health care in the United States. Professor Randall's analysis provides hope for correcting this injustice."

For more information, contact Shawn Robinson, associate director of media relations, at 937-229-3391 or srobinson@udayton.edu.