From 2001 to 2005, the death rate for minorities in Forsyth County, N.C., was 34% higher among minorities than whites, according to a report from the county health department, the Winston-Salem Journal reports. The Forsyth County Health Department, Forsyth County Healthy Community Coalition and a specially selected team collaborated on the report.
According to the report, minorities in the county are:
• Twice as likely as whites to have low birthweight infants;
• About three times more likely to die from diabetes or kidney disease; and
• 23 times more likely to die from AIDS-related complications.
The report, which looked at overall health in the county, also noted that county residents generally have a high rate of preventable diseases and death due to smoking, unhealthy diets and lack of exercise. The report recommended encouraging healthier foods in school cafeterias, increasing the number of smoke-free restaurants and helping care providers encourage their patients to stop smoking.
The report in part recommended some economic improvements to address the disparities. For example, the report said minimum wage should be raised from $6.15 to at least $9.93 per hour. In addition, the county's top employers, as well as county and city governments, should pay workers supporting a family of four at least $21,200, or $10.20 an hour with health benefits. Forsyth County Commissioner Walter Marshall said he has been "preaching for years" about the need to raise wages, adding, "You have so many people that are working and who can't afford health care."
County Health Director Tim Monroe said that while minorities gained legal equality through civil rights legislation, they did not gain much in terms of wealth. He added, "To be a player, you have to have some money. You have to control some wealth or have the ability to gather some wealth. The injustices are still there 45 years after the civil rights movement. We have to ask ourselves as a community if that is OK."
The report also called for increasing voter registration among minorities to give them a greater say in shaping public policies.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation