New research shows that a certain group of African Americans is able to avoid the sky-high levels of health disparities we experience — women and men to who have excellent access to quality health care.
A large study of black and white Americans who use Veteran’s Administration (VA) health care services — a system where black and white patients have roughly equal opportunities to receive the health care they need, regardless of income or education level — found that with proper care African American not only live as long as white Americans, we may live longer.
The study results are the opposite of what researchers find when they study mortality among black Americans In the general population. For millions of us, a lack of access to health care contributes to health disparities and early death. Simply put, it’s harder for us to find and afford the physicians and specialists we need on a regular basis to prevent life-threatening health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and diabetes.
Using the medical histories of more than 3 million patients (more than one-half million black Americans), the VA researchers looked at mortality rates for kidney disease and heart disease (the number one cause of death for Americans).
In the general population, black Americans lose their lives to heart disease, for example, earlier in life than white Americans. The VA researchers decided to look at their records to see if consistent access to quality medical care — the type of care received by veteran’s and their families — could make a difference.
At best, “We thought we were going to show black would do the same if the same care was offered to both groups,” said senior author Dr. Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh, a nephrologist and epidemiologist at the University of California Irvine in a Los Angeles Times interview. “But we found blacks do even better.
Instead, Kalantar-Zadeh and his team found that the black men and women in the study who received VA care were 37 percent less likely to develop heart disease and had a 24 percent lower chance of mortality from several chronic illnesses than whites. In the general population, the mortality rate was 42 percent higher among black Americans compared to white Americans.
Reducing Your Personal Health Risks
The study suggests, that when given consistent, competent health care, black Americans can be just as healthy as white Americans. The great news is that even if you are not a veteran, you can also access quality care, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Obamacare.
The ACA offers many benefits for black women. No matter what type of insurance you have, you are now covered, without a co-pay, for an annual Well Woman visit, and a range of important medical tests. Review this list of covered treatments and make sure you put your annual visits to your doctor on your calendar.