It was just last year that the history-making Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed by President Obama. This act, which was created as a means to address this country's failing health-care system, is believed to provide over 50 million Americans with health insurance. Being uninsured and lack of access to quality health care is a serious issue in the black community. A report from 2009 found that 45 percent of African-Americans reported not having health insurance from 2007-2008. That's really scary.
So while the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may be one step in the right direction when it to comes to addressing the health disparities in our community, it still needs work. There are some gaps that need to be filled in ensuring that our biggest needs are met, especially when it comes to women's health. And Black women could use a boost in improving our health, especially when it comes to preventative healthcare.
So to better understand what women need, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asked for the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a report and come up recommendations.
One of the most talked about IOM recommendations is that birth control should be free and that there shouldn't be any co-pays for birth control either. The IOM stated that this measure could result in less unintended pregnancies, which account for almost half of pregnancies each year in the U.S. In addition to free birth control, the committee recommended that all women in their childbearing years should receive patient education, counseling and prenatal care.
The report said many women with unintended pregnancies aren't likely to receive prenatal care, are more likely to smoke, more likely to be depressed and more likely to be victims of domestic violence during pregnancy.
Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk for a preterm delivery or a low birth-weight infant. Both these conditions increase the risk for health and developmental problems for a child, the report said.
But birth control isn't the only recommendation, the committee is recommending:
—Screening for diabetes.
—Testing for the human papillomavirus as part of cervical cancer screening.
—Counseling about sexually transmitted infections.
—Counseling and screening for HIV.
—Counseling on breast-feeding and breast-feeding equipment.
—Counseling on interpersonal and domestic violence.
—Yearly preventive care visits to recommended preventive services.
"This report provides a road map for improving the health and well-being of women," committee chair Linda Rosenstock, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a statement. "The eight services we identified are necessary to support women's optimal health and well-being. Each recommendation stands on a foundation of evidence supporting its effectiveness."
This is all good news for black women given the disproportionate rates of diabetes, HPV, STIs, HIV, and other health issues that we endure. My only hope is that the recommendations are taken seriously and are amended into healthcare reform. Only time will tell.
(Photo: Kelsey Snell/MCT/Landov)