All About Access and Equality

MB Lewis

MB Lewis

UM SPH Dean Ken Warner kicked off the 24th Annual Minority Health Conference today by acknowledging the historic moment, since this is the day after health care reform FINALLY got through the U.S. House of Representatives.  Sure, it’s a watered-down version of what it would take to truly address health disparities (perhaps the major issue of concern to public health, Dean Warner noted). But it’s something nonetheless.

Conference keynote speaker Lisa Newman, M.D., M.P.H. prefaced her talk (a sophisticated untangling of socioeconomic and ethnic factors affecting cancer outcomes among races in America) by recalling that Martin Luther King, Jr., declared inequality in health care the most shocking and inhumane form of injustice. I wonder if homegrown themes of access and disparities will overwhelm the planned global focus of this year’s weeklong Minority Health Conference, which features daily events through Friday, March 26. I guess that’s the risk of living in interesting times….

It will take me, and probably most of America, more than a week to absorb what transpired in D.C. last night. I reached out via email to my classmates in the SPH Certificate in the Foundations of Public Health program when the vote went through at midnight and asked them to share their thoughts. We’ve certainly talked about related issues in our Survey of the U.S. Health Care System class this semester.

Rose from the College of Pharmacy said she was celebrating: “This is a new chapter for public health in the U.S.” Charles, on the other hand, said “Any health care reform should have first addressed cost containment before even entertaining coverage and is likely to follow Massachusetts’ path of higher costs.” (See comments from several UM SPH professors, including Rich Lichtenstein who teaches my class. Add your comment to UM SPH’s Facebook page.)

I know this is just the beginning of the road to fixes in our health care system, and discussion in our class this Wednesday evening is going to be lively. There are times when we get so involved that we forget we’re only voices of generic little avatars communicating online… and this will likely be one of those times.

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