Rep. Lacy Clay holds forum on health disparities

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On Saturday, Oct. 29, a forum on Health Disparities hosted by U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay took place in the Anheuser Busch Auditorium in the John Cook School of Business.

“Saint Louis University has always been a national leader for public health,” said Clay, thus making the University the “perfect setting for today’s discussion.”

Julius Hunter, vice president of community relations at SLU, served as moderator for the forum, which consisted of nine total panelists, including special guest Congresswoman Donna Christensen.

As the U.S. Virgin Islands Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Health Braintrust, Christensen was very familiar with the subject.

“We are all working together, and we came together now to close the healthcare gaps,” Christensen said of working with Clay on an upcoming bill they will be presenting in Washington.

By 10 a.m. Clay had already addressed the students at Saint Louis University’s Make A Difference Day. He began his statements to the panel saying, “It was very inspiring to see that the young people understood a basic truth: We all have a responsibility to our community and to each other.”

Clay continued to emphasize health as a part of those responsibilities.

“Good health is God’s greatest blessing. We have an obligation to preserve that blessing for all people,” he said

The forum focused on the lack of quality healthcare and treatment available for minorities and what is being done to resolve the issues.

According to slides presented by Christensen, “Health disparities are often the result of multiple forms of racism that are embedded within the institutions that constitute the healthcare system.” There are fewer minorities as health professionals and less than equal care being given.

“Racism and discrimination are built into our healthcare program,” said panelist Dr. James Kimmey, president and CEO of the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Once the problem had been established, the rest of the panel focused on assessing the situation and finding solutions. According to panelist Betty Kerr, CEO of People’s Health Centers, Inc., “Prevention is the best cure for disparities – if we detect smaller problems, we can stop them from becoming more serious problems.”

Another primary solution is working with students in medical school to encourage equal and fair treatment throughout their careers.

“Physicians must take an active role in making sure their patients have access to quality care – Medical schools must therefore improve efforts to teach culturally sensitive care-not only to train the students, but the faculty as well,” said Dr. Consuelo Hopkins Wilkens, president of the Mound City Medical Forum.

Although there are many people working together to solve the problems, there is still not enough being done.

“We’ve come a long way,” said Robert Fruend, Jr., CEO of the Regional Health Commission. “But we’ve got a long way to go – after all, it took generations to dig this hole; it wall take years to get ourselves out.”

“Sometimes, we have strange priorities in our country; the things we care about the most get the least attention,” said Clay.