886,000 black people died unnecessarily – in the world’s wealthiest country – from 1991-2000

This story came from the LiP people who do a ‘media picks’ weekly mailing.

You have heard of the Lancet study that conservatively estimates that the US killed 100,000 in Iraq. You have heard of the UN figures that suggested in 1996 that excess mortality due to the US sanctions against Iraq was around 500,000 children. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that: “over 886,000 deaths could have been prevented from 1991 to 2000 if African Americans had received the same care as whites.”

Quoting from the Washington Post article on the topic:

The study estimates that technological improvements in medicine — including better drugs, devices and procedures — averted only 176,633 deaths during the same period. That means “five times as many lives can be saved by correcting the disparities [in care between whites and blacks] than in developing new treatments,” Steven H. Woolf, lead author and director of research at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Family Medicine, said in a telephone interview.

Another quotable quote from the study is this: “The prudence of investing billions [of dollars] in the development of new drugs and technologies while investing only a fraction of that amount in the correction of disparities deserves reconsideration.”

It would have been easy enough to guess this result. Consider that:

1) The US has no public health care system, and leaves some 50 million people with no health insurance;

2) Even in the absence of statistics about those 50 million, knowing that the black population is at the bottom of the US economic pyramid, one would be on firm ground guessing that a large percentage if not a majority of that 50 million were black;

3) People without health care will die of conditions and diseases that would not kill people who have health care, and;

4) The numbers involved really are quite large – tens of millions of people.

As a result it should not be so shocking that close to a million people died unnecessarily over 10 years for lack of health care.

Despite all that I was taken aback by the figure.

I hope others are as well.

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