Health Systems Administration Department and AARP DC Collaboration Results in New Study of Disparities
June 11, 2021 – A new study – published by AARP District of Columbia in collaboration with the Department of Health Systems Administration at the School of Nursing & Health Studies – offers a substantive look at the health and socioeconomic disparities affecting older Black adults who reside in the nation’s capital.
Dr. Christopher King, chair of the department, Dr. Patricia Cloonan, associate professor of health systems administration, and program alumna Amelia Bedri (G’20) coauthored the report, one that “highlights the role that structural racism and lack of access to affordable, high-quality food, transportation, and health care providers play in creating and compounding health disparities.” (Visit the AARP DC news story with details about the report.)
Reducing Health Disparities
King, who was lead author of the June 2020 Georgetown report Health Disparities in the Black Community: An Imperative for Racial Equity in the District of Columbia, described how the new collaboration will help advance this work.
“It was an honor to partner with AARP to uncover disparities that are unique to Black older adults,” he said. “Lessons learned and recommendations will support broader efforts towards racial equity and improved health for all.”
AARP DC Director Louis Davis Jr. shared that action must be taken to address inequities in multiple areas.
“By highlighting health disparities here in the District, our aim is to spur local leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors to act to drastically reduce health disparities and improve health care access for all Black residents in the District,” Davis said. “Not doing so significantly inhibits equitable access to quality health care, housing, employment, and education for older Black residents.”
A summary of the report’s key findings provided by AARP DC illustrates “that rates for heart failure, diabetes, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and asthma were two to three times higher in Black older adults than their white counterparts.”
The study also shows similar disparities in terms of various cancers, including breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate.
“Preventable hospitalizations, a proxy for assessing the quality and capacity of a community’s primary care infrastructure, were two times higher for Black older adults than for whites,” the report reveals. “The study also provides an overview of the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color in the District of Columbia.”
The AARP announcement highlights various efforts made by the city in recent years – including the DC Council’s passage of the Racial Equity Achieves Results (REACH) Amendment Act of 2020 and Council member Vincent Gray’s (Ward 7) resolution declaring “racism as a public health crisis in the District of Columbia.” But more, the report says, must be done using a racial equity framework.
“African American seniors in the District, especially those in Wards 7 and 8, face tremendous barriers to health and wellness every day,” Gray said in the AARP news story. “We’ve known for a long time that we need to address the systematic effects racism has on the African American community. We must act with urgency to prevent illness and death from avoidable conditions among our most vulnerable residents, and make sure all residents have access to quality health care, healthy living conditions and food.”
Under King’s leadership, the department has been working to promote racial justice and health equity efforts. In addition to the 2020 report, King was lead author of the first edition in 2016. He also recently developed an independent study course on racial equity in health care.
Further, this July, renowned scholar Dr. Derek M. Griffith will join the Georgetown community as a tenured professor of health systems administration and a founding co-director of the university’s new Racial Justice Institute.
“This body of work deepens our commitment to using data to tell the story of how systemic injustice results in health and socioeconomic disparities,” King said.
By Bill Cessato, based in large part on the AARP story