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Report Cites Health Care Disconnect for Young Black Men

PHOTO: More funding is needed for social programs such as Moving from Debts to Assets, according to a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It says the nationís record spending on health care has failed those who need it most, particularly young black men. Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Interfaith Initiative.
PHOTO: More funding is needed for social programs such as Moving from Debts to Assets, according to a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It says the nationís record spending on health care has failed those who need it most, particularly young black men. Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Interfaith Initiative.
March 16, 2015

PORTLAND, Maine - There is no shortage of medical spending or technology in New England, but a new report says young, black men are more likely to survive in prison than they are on the street.

While health-care spending is at an all-time high in the United States, said Dr. Stephen Martin of Boston Medical Center, a coauthor of the report, young men of color see little benefit from it. In fact, he said, they have a better chance of surviving in prison.

"Your odds of dying are half in prison what they'd be on the street because you have the things that you need to stay alive and stay healthy," he said. "You have nutrition, you've got a roof over your head, you've got medical care that's accessible and guaranteed by the Constitution."

The Viewpoint commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that African-American men can expect to live about five fewer years than white men. To help change that, Martin said, the nation needs to increase funding for social and public-health programs.

Martin said Portland is like many urban centers in New England, offering unbelievable technical advances in medicine - but few social and effective primary-care services in communities of color that target the needs of men.

"Worcester, Springfield, Portland, Maine - these areas all have been eviscerated in terms of social support," he said. "They often have marquee medical centers that don't really understand how to do community-level care - and aren't reimbursed for it in our current, screwed-up health-care system."

The researchers noted that heart disease and cancer contribute to lower life expectancy - but homicide is the leading cause of death for black males ages 15 to 34. It also ranks among the top three causes of death for black male children ages 1 to 14.

The report is online at jama.jamanetwork.com.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME