Tuesday, November 17, 2009
In what may well become a powerful lesson for healthcare in the US, Shaila Dewan writes in a November 16th New York Times article about how in Henry County, Georgia, a few years ago during the housing boom, tens of thousands of African American retirees and young professionals were among those moving into the mostly white suburb of Atlanta, creating tension between the newcomers and the county’s old timers. Interestingly though, the recession has begun to erase those tensions. Blacks and whites are encountering one another in increasing numbers in the crowded waiting rooms of the welfare office where many of both races have ventured for the first time. Women in Jaguars pull up to the local food pantry, and former millionaires hunker down in grand, unsellable homes. Struggling black-owned businesses are attracting the attention of white patrons. Neighbors are commiserating across racial lines. The recession hit Henry County, for years one of the nation’s fastest growing areas, at a time when it was already struggling to come to terms with startling demographic change. In 1990, the county was almost 90 percent white. Now, as its population has more than tripled to 192,000, according to 2008 census estimates, the white percentage of the population has shrunk to 60 percent. But nothing else has worked to remove barriers as quickly as economic hardship. A local county businessman stated that “There used to be a lot of racial tension here, but everybody knows that we need each other to survive this recession, and people now, seem to be starting to care for one another.” The idea that the recession is an equalizer has become accepted in Henry County. Strange how things work sometimes isn’t it? This one community, steeped in the history of the deep south, by the accounts of many living in that community, is adjusting, surviving and in some cases thriving. The question is will the rest of society and our healthcare system, who are both experiencing the same demographic changes as Henry County Georgia, similarly recognize that we are all in this together? The numbers of non poor, non minorities experiencing significant healthcare disparities is soaring just like it is for the poor. Sooner or later health inequality for some, threatens the quality of health of us all. We would do well to learn the lessons of Henry County, and if we do, perhaps the health of our nation will not only survive, but thrive.
Posted by Chris Gibbons at 11:20 AM