Now is as Good a Time as Ever to Pay Special Attention to Our Health 

With all the debate about health care reform, there is no better time than the present to make the health of you and your love one’s a priority.   And, while we often face real obstacles, there are still plenty of steps we can all take to be healthier.

African Americans frequently receive less and lower quality care than other Americans – and are sicker as a result.  For example, African Americans suffer higher rates of chronic illness such as asthma, diabetes, and cancer; and higher rates of obesity than the U.S. population overall. And many health issues last until death, which often arrives years earlier for Blacks than for Whites.

What’s more, older Blacks are less likely than older Whites to get flu and pneumonia vaccinations, and unfortunately this gap has widened.  African Americans with diabetes are more likely than Whites to end up with a foot or leg amputated – yet another disparity that has grown worse. 

Blacks get tested less frequently than Whites for colorectal and other cancers. They also have lower rates of treatment for depression.  Black women also are less likely than White women to have breast cancer diagnosed from a mammogram or a clinical breast exam.   And Blacks comprise a highly disproportionate share of the HIV-positive population in America.

These problems are made worse by other factors such as unaffordable insurance. 

If your loved one is struggling to make ends meet, look for helpful community resources.  You can find information on State Benefit Guides at  This site can help you find programs that pay for a doctor’s appointment, assist in finding money for prescriptions and in finding money to help pay hospital bills. It takes just a little bit of research, but it’s all worth it in the long run.

Also, if you or a loved one is 65 or older, sign up for Medicare. Check out for more information. In fact, the recent health care reform covers free preventive care – like annual physicals and screenings for cancer and diabetes – for anyone in Medicare or the private insurance market.  That means doctors can catch problems before they become more serious and keep Americans healthy and out of the hospital.

Disparities in care are more than unfair. They undermine health and erode productivity in our economy. By allowing our health to worsen, health care costs rise for everyone.

Obstacles to care are an invisible divide that weakens all of society.

See a doctor and take a loved one to the doctor if he or she has been putting it off. Also, do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle and make responsible personal choices.  Most of all, remember that information is power – so use it to motivate yourself to better health for you and your loved ones! 

Need help getting started? Check out AARP’s programs and resources specially designed to prepare you and your loved one to live a healthier lifestyle.