A panel of the area’s top medical professionals gathered Tuesday to discuss the state of black healthcare in South Florida. The discussion, hosted by Legacy Magazine, addressed medical issues affecting African-Americans, who make up nearly a quarter of the South Florida population.
According to statistics, the black community at large fare worse than their white counterparts in contracting a number of dangerous conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. However, according to Dr. Michael Butler of Jackson Health System, the most notorious health issue in the black community is ignorance.
“The black community are under-resourced in virtually any aspect you care to imagine, and healthcare is just one aspect of that,” Butler says. “There’s an absolute dearth of knowledge about what questions to ask, what’s available. If the community is not aware of how the different things work, that makes it that much harder to get the outcomes and the results that people would want.”
According to the American Medical Association, there are persistent differences in quality of health among Americans based on race. Disparity in access and treatment reflects continuing disparities in income, education and other characteristics that correlate with receiving medical service.
However, recent studies also suggest that even when blacks gain access to the healthcare system, they are less likely to receive certain surgical or other kinds of therapies.
Mark Kent is chief executive officer of the CAC-Florida Medical Centers. He says increased patient education would greatly improve the state of black health care in South Florida communities.
“The state of black healthcare in America is abysmal, but its abysmal because we’re not questioning it,” Kent says. “Part of our overall issue is that we don’t educate ourselves enough before arriving to the appointment. There is a great need to educate and empower.”
Professionals also recommend regular checkups and screenings to prevent and detect health problems in their early stages.