Christine Stuart photo

An NAACP study that looked at the prevalence of health conditions amongst African Americans found they lead the state in chronic illnesses like diabetes and asthma, are more likely to be uninsured, and are more likely to die from breast cancer even though they’re less likely to get it.

James Rawlings, chair of the NAACP health committee, said the study “is the first time a report has been done by those who have been impacted by it.” He said for years the African American community has been seeing the symptoms of disparities in the health care system, but have never had any data to back it up, until now.

This is why the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care and the NAACP were at the Capitol Thursday to advocate for the creation of an Office of Minority Health. Click   here for the New Haven Independent story on this same topic.

Rev. Shelley Copeland from the Capitol Region Council of Churches said, “People of color do not have to die, just because they’re people of color.” She said it’s about time policy catches up with science.

Proponents of the bill believe it has a good chance of passing since House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, and Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, seem to support it.

When Amann addressed the crowd Thursday he said health care is the “next great civil rights challenge of our generation,” then transitioned into how the legislature has to be smart about the “allocation of our resources,” and how insuring all children should be a priority. 

The fiscal note says the bill will cost $201,846 in 2009 and just over $313,000 in 2010. The total 2009 state budget is more than $18 billion.

“This is very important legislation to move forward,” Williams said calmly moments before he turned into a fiery preacher talking passionately about uninsurance rates amongst minority populations and what he experienced at the free dental clinic held in Tolland last weekend.

Black, white, Hispanic, young, old, men, women, and children stood in the pouring rain, some of them in pain, hours before the dental clinic opened its doors, Williams said. He said the gym floor where they had 68 dental chairs set up “looked like medical treatment in a war zone.”

The charity dental clinic hosted by Mission of Mercy “is not a solution,” Williams concluded.

The legislature fell short of passing any sort of universal health care last year, but they did increase doctor and hospital reimbursement rates, expanded the children’s health care program, and promised to study health care access in the state. The study is due at the end of December.

Click the play arrow below to hear Rev. Copeland’s prayer for health care equality.