Byline: JAKE ARMSTRONG
ATLANTA - Nearly 350 infants die each year because of disparities in the access and quality of health care available to minorities in Georgia, a statistic state health officials say is emblematic of a health disparity epidemic.
But a new county-by-county study grading the health status of minorities, which the Department of Community Health released Friday, should mark the first step toward adequately understanding and building community support for addressing the issues, health officials said.
Racial inequalities in Georgia health care is nothing new, said George Rust, co-chairman of the Minority Health Advisory Council, which helped author the 353-page report.
Socioeconomic factors - income, education and unemployment - play a big role in the disparity, said George Rust, co-chairman of the Minority Health Advisory Council, which helped author the report.
But the biggest reason behind the gap is that nothing has been done about it.
"I would say that our fundamental underlying cause is our willingness to accept inequality," Rust said.
Perhaps that is because leaders and community members have felt powerless to change anything, or because the information has never been laid out at a county level.
"I think the very first step is to understand that if there is a hole in the boat we're all going down together, that it is not their fault, or this other community that has the problem," Rust said.
Next, the department will hold a series of town hall meetings in May and June at yet-to-be-announced locations to discuss the report and identify possible solutions.
The department will also offer grants of up to $100,000 to community groups and organizations addressing conditions most likely to reverse the disparity.
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HEALTH REPORT CARDS
Social and Economic Indicators: D
Hospital Admissions and Emergency Room Visits: A
Prenatal Care and Birth Outcomes: C
Primary Care Access: B
Physician Racial-Ethnic Diversity: F
Mental Health Care Access: A
Estimated Percentage Without Health Insurance: 16. …