In recent years there has been a trend towards narrowing the health gap between African-Americans and whites in the U.S. Now according to a new report that gap may be widening again.
According to the report by the National Urban League released Friday on the social and economic status of African-Americans in the U.S., health equality between African-Americans and whites has widened slightly to blunt progress made in recent years.
Marc Morial, Urban League president believes that the less than 1-point decrease in health equality identified this year isn’t necessarily indicative of a trend – recent changes Republican lawmakers have made to the Affordable Care Act could wipe out gains that have been seen over the long haul. “We had this trend, beginning in 2014, where we saw this narrowing between blacks and whites,” he says. “Now we’ve seen one year of a small backtrack – a backstep. Is that aberrational or is that part of a long-term trend? We’ll have to look at those numbers.”
For their annual study, the Urban League used data from recent years in areas such as access to health care and physical and mental health to measure parity between African-Americans and whites in health overall. For this latest 2018 Urban League report, the health equality score for African-Americans was 79.3 percent, representing a gap of about 20 percentage points with whites and a slight decrease in equality from the 2017 findings, when the health index for African-Americans registered 80 percent and seemed to be rising. In 2005, health equality between blacks and whites was about 24 points apart.
The data indicate the change but the question as to why remains. According to Morial, adding that increased access to health care through the law known as Obamacare likely was a factor.
Some of the biggest decreases in health equality between African-Americans and whites, however, occurred in the areas of mental health and suicide deaths among teens and young adults. Ultimately, Morial says, the State of Black America report is a snapshot in time, and the more worrisome trends it shows can still be reversed.