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Troubling New Report Finds Young Men of Color Live Longer in Prison Than Outside

PHOTO: Health care spending is at an all-time high in the U.S., but a troubling new report in the Journal of American Medicine finds access to quality health care for young men of color so disproportionately poor they stand a better chance of living longer in prison than in society. Photo credit: FBI.
PHOTO: Health care spending is at an all-time high in the U.S., but a troubling new report in the Journal of American Medicine finds access to quality health care for young men of color so disproportionately poor they stand a better chance of living longer in prison than in society. Photo credit: FBI.
March 19, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. - New Mexico has plenty of major hospitals that offer the latest in technology, but a new report says young black men are disconnected from health care. As a result, they are more likely to live shorter lives.

Report co-author Dr. Stephen Martin says while health care spending is at an all-time high in the U.S., young men of color see little benefit from it. In fact, he says 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 there to stay alive and stay healthy," he says. "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 notes that African-American men can expect to live about five fewer years than white men. To help change that, Martin says the nation needs to increase funding for social and public health programs.

Martin describes what he calls a "significant asymmetry" to "unbelievable technical advances" in medicine, and the absence of social services and effective primary care in communities of color that he says could do much to help young black men.

"It's striking how only three cents of our American health care dollar goes to public health," says Martin. "Just three cents. This is the same public health that gave us 90 percent of our life expectancy gains in the 20th century. And yet, compared with medical care, public health and social support funding have been eviscerated."

The researchers note 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. Homicide also ranks among the top three causes of death for black male children, ages one to 14.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM