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History of inequality feeds health disparities in African Americans

Posted at 7:25 PM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 20:25:33-04

MILWAUKEE — Dr. Tito Izard spends his days serving people in Milwaukee's 53212 zip code as a family physician. It is the same neighborhood he grew up in.

"It is a blessing to be a physician and to be able to serve people," said Dr. Izard.

He also leads Milwaukee Health Services Incorporated as President and CEO.

Dr. Izard says the health disparities of African Americans, especially those who are descendants of slaves, are the result of our country's history.

"So whether it’s hypertension whether it’s other chronic disease conditions such as heart disease, asthma, cancer rates that occur all of these conditions. We see that African-Americans are the least cared for and have the worst outcomes of the whole group nationally," said Dr. Izard.

Those poorer outcomes are not solely due to poverty, and they are not only tied to income. Social determinants of health play a part. That includes housing, access to nutrition, education, and employment.

Dr. Izard points to history, from slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow and beyond, and explains we are seeing the results of those policies put in place during those eras.

"When we look at all those factors every single one are actually for the ADOS (American Descendants of Slaves) population actually have historical lineage because there has never been any restitution through reparations or some other specific economic plan to make African-Americans whole again," Dr. Izard explained.

According to the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, in Milwaukee County, for every 100,000 Medicare enrollees likely to experience a hospitalization nearly 8,000 are African American and nearly 5,000 are white.

"Even just going to the emergency room is a whole different way they treat you. Just like when they see you, they have a picture in mind of who you are, and it’s usually negative," said Patricia McManus, president and CEO of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin.

Their work centers on advocacy and education both critical pieces to good health.

"I can take care of myself. I’m a 200 percent advocate, but I’m concerned about if they’re treating me this way they’re treating other people this way too," McManus said.

There are steps to address the issues of health disparities.

Dr. Izard said they have proposed a program to create a pipeline of people of color in health care jobs.

"There’s lots of studies that show better outcomes by having minority physicians that reflect the communities," Dr. Izard said.

Plus, some tools can help. In Milwaukee, you may qualify for health benefits you do not even know about. The city's community healthcare access program can help you navigate.

Milwaukee Health Services also offers ways to get insurance and medical attention. You can reach them at Milwaukee Health Institute's website.

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