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The health gap: What ails the African-American community?

As a teenage boy growing up in poverty in inner-city Newark circa 1980, Dr.

As a teenage boy growing up in poverty in inner-city Newark circa 1980, Dr. Sampson Davis and his two friends made a pact: they would all go to college, graduate, and become doctors. All three of them kept their word.

Now an E.R. doctor, Dr. Davis joined the NOW with Alex Wagner panel Monday to discuss his new memoir, Living and Dying in Brick City, in which he shines a light on the healthcare issues that continue to plague his hometown and other inner city communities across the country.

Even though 40% of Americans are unaware of racial and ethnic disparities in health, the gap is wide. According to a Kaiser report, minority Americans are at least twice as likely to be uninsured than whites. In the book, Dr. Davis also cites some startling statistics about the African-American community:

  • African-Americans are more overweight or obese than any other racial group;
  • African-Americans have twice the rate of heart disease and stroke compared to whites;
  • Even though they made up 14% of the U.S. population in 2009, African-Americans accounted for 44% of new HIV infections that year

And the disparities don’t stop there.

Davis also points out that African-Americans have the highest rates of deaths by firearms of all racial groups; African-American children and teens are five times as likely as their white peers to be killed by firearms; and homicide is the leading cause of death for black men aged 15-34.

So, what’s the solution? Davis calls for a communal effort: “I’m advocating for all physicians and healthcare workers to step outside the confines of the hospital and their office and be one with the community. I’m asking the community as well to understand your asthma, to understand your high blood pressure.”