News & Reviews
African American Wealth and Health Gaps, Education Dysfunctions, and Now Major COVID-19 Death Disparities!!!
April 8, 2020
The headline for the information that was sent out to African American newspapers by the NNPA Black Press Association about the COVID-19 impact said — State of Emergency Declared for Black America.
That warning from the press association looked at early COVID-19 deaths. They reported that the percentages of African Americans currently being killed by that virus were extremely high and that the death percentages are actually painfully disproportionate for Black Americans as a percentage of the population.
Milwaukee is currently 26 percent Black, and African Americans have been 81 percent of the COVID deaths there.
Michigan has 14 percent of their total population Black, and African Americans have been 40 percent of the COVID deaths there.
New Orleans is 32 percent Black, and African Americans are more than 70 percent of the COVID deaths.
Why is that true?
We do not understand those numbers at this point in time. We do know that there have long been a number of other health related disparities for our African American population. A combination of increased comorbidities, higher ranges of diabetes, higher levels of heart disease, and higher levels for other chronic diseases for our African American patients might be driving those numbers because those patients are probably at higher risk.
That medical factor information isn’t known yet — and it needs to be determined so that we can deal with it in the most effective ways.
One of the factors that is probably creating some of the higher death rates, however, very clearly is that for lower income people, the option of staying at home instead of going to work for the duration of the disease is much more difficult. It is much harder to stay home when you simply cannot afford to stay home.
We know that the relative wealth levels of Black families are significantly lower for our entire country compared to the wealth levels of White families. It is much harder to stay at home and much harder to do total social distancing when there is very little money available to make that set of behaviors financially possible.
The financial disparities that we see today are clear and painful.
Two years ago, the average White family in America had a net worth of $161,000. By comparison, the average net worth of Hispanic families was $20,700 and the average net worth of African American families was $17,000.
Staying at home for safe social distancing is obviously much more difficult when there is very little money available to make that distancing behavior affordable.
We clearly have significant disparities that we need to understand and address as a nation for both income levels and for resources available to families from every group.
Our schools are part of that disparity reality. We have major learning gaps in our schools that need to be understood as part of the disparities that we need to correct in our society.
Our schools are failing to produce students from all groups who can both read and do calculations at grade levels when they leave school. The learning gaps in our schools widened again this year.
That should not be happening. We now know what needs to be done to have those learning gaps disappear in our schools. We need to fix those learning gaps by giving children from every group the brain exercise needed by each child in the first months and years of life when learning readiness happens for every child.
The science and the biology and the time frames are the same for children from every group.
Neurons connect by billions in the brains of our children in the first months and years of life when children have direct interactions in the first months and first years of life. Interactions create neuron connections in ways that can have a huge benefit for every child from every group — but the grim reality is that process changes significantly for each child by age four.
Neuron connection processes do not stay the same for the entire lives of each child. The very first months and years are the times of extremely high potential for children from all groups. That process changes in purely biological ways at age four.
We should never give up on any child.
We still need to provide great education processes and great support for all children after that age, but closing the learning gaps is much harder after age four when the brains of each child become less open to the stimulus and to the neuron connection opportunities that begin in the first month of life for each child.
The process begins at birth.
Neuron connections begin in the first weeks and first months of life for every child — and those connections can create great levels of learning readiness in our children when we take advantage of that opportunity in that time frame.
Both talking and reading to children make those connections happen. Reading has almost magical impact on some children.
We know from the new research that reading to 1-year-old children causes those neurons to connect by the billions in each child. We also now know that more than half of the low-income homes in America do not have a single book.
Massive disparities and huge inequities exist today relative to books available for each set of children. We know that middle- and upper-income homes now average a dozen or more books per child.
We know that children from the homes with no books hear fewer than 5,000 spoken words, on average, before age five. We know that the children in homes that read at least once a day hear more than 200,000 spoken words before age five. The differences in neuron connections that happen with 5,000 spoken words instead of 200,000 words makes a huge difference in the life of each child.
It is extremely important for us all to know that both talking and reading in those first months and first years create neuron connections by the billions in each child, and the children who do not have those connections do not do well in school.
The newly expanding brain scienceexplains clearly to us why that difference in the number of spoken words creates such huge disparities in the learning readiness levels for all of our children.
We owe our children the benefit of finally understanding that science and those processes and then using that information to give our children much better lives.
We have created massive economic disparities as a country. We owe our children a chance to make those disparities disappear.
We need to make whatever investments are needed to get books to all of our children in the first months and years of life, in order to soften some of those inequities. More than half of our births this year in our country will be to Medicaid homes, and that fact gives us excellent links to those homes that we need to use to help children.
Our WIC programs tied to Medicaid can easily be used to distribute books to low income families, as part of our commitment to all of our children. Pilot WIC projects have gotten the learning readiness levels up from under 20 percent to over 70 percent by having both books and coaching about reading available to those very young children.
The shocking COVID-19 death rate disparities point us very directly to the need to solve a number of major societal problems and the single most effective way of doing that over time and addressing key problems at multiple levels is to have healthier and more learning ready children in our schools.
We know that the children who drop out of high school have much higher rates of diabetes, asthma, depression, chemical abuse, and other chronic conditions. We know that the neuron connections that exist at age four are the best predictor who is going to drop out of school and go down that path to health issues. That ties directly to the fact that co morbidities trigger higher COVID 19 deaths.
We need better science about the COVID-19 disparities at every level.
We also need better resources going to our children to help with some of the learning disparities in our schools and, ultimately, the wealth and income disparities in our country.