VOL. 132 | NO. 214 | Friday, October 27, 2017
Health: Our Local - and Global - Concern
The United Nations Foundation’s theme this year is “Global Goals, Local Leaders” as it aims to engage our local elected officials in global health issues, especially health care.
Should Memphians be concerned about local health care? And, is there a way to create a conversation regarding health care that is non-partisan and, rather, more compassionate and humane? Now is the time our community must come together and respect each other regardless of race, gender, religion or political affiliation to make discussions about health care run smoothly.
What are some of the main concerns for Memphians regarding health care locally, nationally, and globally?
GENERAL COMMUNITY HEALTH
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, has championed various means of improving health care in Memphis, including acquisition of funds for community organizations. He supports measures to allow low-income families access to health care. These are mostly Memphian minorities and families of around 200-400 refugees, mostly from Africa, Asia and South America, who are resettled in our city each year. Nonetheless, according to the 2017 American Fitness Index, Memphis remains one of the unhealthiest cities in the country with high rates of heart disease and infant mortality among others.
Accessing health care has been a major challenge for the majority-minority population in Memphis regarding gender, races sexuality and social class, especially on issues such as HIV/AIDS. According to AIDSVu, the rate of black males and females living with HIV is 5.6 and 12.6 times that of white males and white females, respectively. This should be a concern since black people make up the majority of our population (around 60 percent). Besides minority races, we must be concerned for people living with disabilities, including the deaf community, a minority that has been forgotten across social classes and gender and have barriers to health care. Many deaf people fear going to health facilities because of various communication barriers. We need to support organizations such as Family Voices of Tennessee that work through the Tennessee Disability Coalition to advocate for better health care for these members of our community.
A generation after Memphians defeated the Yellow Fever epidemic, the United Nations completely eradicated small pox (1979) through the World Health Organization (WHO) immunization campaigns. This is clear evidence that preventable diseases can be eradicated. Therefore, we must eradicate preventable diseases, especially malaria. We are potentially at risk of another disease outbreak because of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria as our citizens frequently travel in and out of the country. The UN-affiliated Nothing but Nets campaign (eradicating malaria) and Shot at Life (immunizations for measles, polio, pneumonia, and rotavirus) work with WHO, UNHCR and UNICEF to combat these diseases. The UN duly needs funding to keep these going.
As long as proactive Memphians exercise their voting rights and powers, we can influence officials in Tennessee District 9 (Memphis/Shelby County) on health care legislation that benefits most in our poor community. We are fortunate to have Representative Cohen, who believes that “regardless of personal background or political leanings, we all share a concern for access to health care for ourselves and our families.” He is committed to addressing some of the issues facing our community, which is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing). Furthermore, Cohen believes adequate health care is a basic right and has opposed any cuts to health care funding. This shows him a as a concerned leader who supports local and global health funding.
Some Memphians may still remain unconcerned with local and global health care issues because they are well insured and lead healthier lives. But it is out of humanitarian love and compassion to care about the health of those we meet in our schools, workplaces and grocery stores. We must all be concerned about community health because of our inevitable daily interactions with people.
Start a conversation on health care now. Extend it to your colleagues and friends. Together, we can make Memphis more aware and concerned about health issues in our community as well as the rest if the world.
Seabelo John is a 2017 Global Health Fellow for the United Nations Foundation. He serves the community through Rhodes College’s United Nations campus chapter and mobilizes programs to promote the Sustainable Development Goals in Memphis and the Mid-South.