A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that blacks under the age of 50 suffer heart failure at twenty times the rate of whites. The main culprit that is pointed to is hypertension, which leads to the question of why blacks are more likely to suffer from hypertension than whites.
Some reasons are biological. One such factor is genetics-blacks seem to have a genetic predisposition towards hypertension (or greater vulnerability to it or its causes). Also, it has been claimed that blacks are more likely to have hypertension in response to salty diets than whites (although the role of salt in hypertension has been debated by some). Aside from genetic engineering, these biological factors cannot be altered.
Some reasons are environmental, psychological and social. One factor is that men in general and black men in particular tend to avoid going to the doctor. As such, black men are less likely to be diagnosed with and treated for hypertension. Since hypertension is generally quite manageable, it is hardly surprising that the rate of heart failure among black males would be higher.
Another factor is that black males are less likely to have medical insurance than white males. Someone who does not have insurance is far less likely to go to the doctor to be checked for hypertension and hence more likely to have any hypertension left undiagnosed and untreated. Further, even if a person is diagnosed with hypertension, then there is still the challenge of paying for the treatment and follow up appointments. Since black males tend to be less well off than white males, it is hardly surprising that such a disparity exists.
There is also the concern that racism might play a factor-that white doctors might be more concerned about white patients than black patients. Also, black neighborhoods will tend to be poorer neighborhoods and hence black males will have less access to health care providers.
Fortunately, there are various community organizations that are making testing for hypertension readily available, often at the neighborhood barbershops. While such efforts are both laudable and essential, this situation is yet one more example of how health care in America needs to be improved.
Part of the problem is that while people are willing to pour billions into a socialistic defense program to protect us from terrorists and other human enemies, the same willingness is not there to protect Americans from the greater threat posed by health issues.
These need not be done using “socialized medicine“, but just as each citizen is entitled to the protection of the police and armed forces, so too should each citizen be entitled to protection against disease and illness. After all, a person is just as dead whether they are blown up by Al Qaeda or die of a heart attack arising from untreated hypertension.
Of course, it might be argued that people should be left to fend on their own when it comes to health care. The challenge is, of course, to argue that this is the case while at the same time holding that the military and police should protect all of us. Of course, a person can be consistent and argue that people should be on their own for everything-let the market decide who dies of hypertension and who gets protected from Al Qaeda.