Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka’s OP-ED on Public Health
April 24, 2015
Newark, NJ – The public discourse on health care in this nation has increased exponentially since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act by President Barack Obama five years ago. Indeed, from the ambitious goals set forth in the federal Healthy People 2020 program – which, among other goals – reduces the proportion of persons who are unable to obtain necessary medical care to the partisan bickering in the halls of Congress over the future of the disparagingly referenced “Obamacare,” it’s all about the health of the citizens of America. Or so it would seem.
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control released the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, which shows that while our country has made discernible strides in improving the health care delivery system, there is still work to do to address disparities in care. Specifically, the report states that people in poor households generally experienced less access and poorer quality and simultaneously, parallel gains in access and quality across groups led to persistence of most disparities.
Talk and rhetoric may fill airwaves, blogs, and magazines, adding to discussion and debate, rancor and ratings. But as Mayor of New Jersey’s largest and oldest City, I must serve and address the very real public health needs of 280,000 people. A theoretically sound report is good talk show fodder – until you are trying to lead a city of more than 270,000 people who are facing the possibility of a hospital closing in their community. A trending story on Twitter that breaks down the disparities in health care based on socioeconomic status is intriguing – until the voices of well-meaning citizens who seek access to a doctor are drowned out by self-interests and scare tactics. Academic discussions on health care are illuminating – but do not address the serious issues of practical medical shortfalls in underserved communities.