People in the most impoverished African American neighborhoods have to travel longer distances to reach the nearest supermarket than people in the most impoverished white neighborhoods – thereby limiting their access to nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. (More on “food deserts” here.) In addition, the worst environmental hazards are located in impoverished black and brown neighborhoods – resulting in higher rates of illnesses like asthma (for more: click here) and lead poisoning among African American children. But the effects are not just class-based. Even college educated black mothers have higher rates of infant mortality for their children than do white mothers who dropped out of high school (start video at minute 1:25). When black women have received consistent prenatal care, they still have infant mortality rates almost double white mothers who received absolutely no prenatal care.
Similarly, blacks have worse outcomes in kidney failure, pre-term births and other conditions even when controlling for socioeconomic and other characteristics. While there are many causes for differences in health outcomes, this phenomenon has been attributed in part to something health and social scientists call “weathering” - which finds that the stress that small instances of discrimination (or “microagressions”) inflict on the body, wear the body down over time and increase negative health outcomes for minorities. For a more thorough analysis of weathering and other health disparities see this video (begin at minute 16:30 for a discussion of weathering).
For more information on the link between inequality and health click here. To learn about solutions to health inequalities, click here. You can also connect with organizations that are working to change things.