I have been an internal medicine doctor for more than 40 years. My practice is nestled in Southeastern San Diego, a cluster of working-class neighborhoods that historically were home to African American families, although these days their neighbors are much more diverse.
Most of my patients are low-income residents of San Diego from a variety of ethnicbackgrounds, including African American, Latino and Asian. They struggle with diabetes, heart problems and other chronic conditions. I have witnessed howthese diseases diminish their quality of life and cut their lives short,despite whatever medical treatment I prescribe them, a reality revealed yearafter year by health statistics.
I'm burying too many of my patients before their time.
My experience shows that these patients are weighed down by a chaotic and unjusthealth system that is stacked against them from the moment they are born. They have a life expectancy eight years less than residents living in North San Diego County.
At heart, that is what's driven me to create the Multicultural Health Foundation, along with a handful of other individuals. This foundation is born from the conviction that this unjust reality cannot be allowed to continue.
Research is just beginning to allow us to understand what can be done to give African American, Latino and other ethnic minorities the opportunity to have the same health status and outcomes as their cross-town Anglo neighbors.
Certainly, decisions individuals make have an enormous impact on their lives, as I remind my patients daily. Individual decision-making, in fact, is key in our foundation's first program, called the Patient Health Improvement Initiative. This program also holds accountable our fragmented, expensive health system.
Why should you care about this if you are not part of an underserved ethnicminority? When a segment of our community is sicker and dies earlier, we allare affected with excess cost to our health system that we all pay for.
This foundation was created to help the neediest patients to navigate the health system to achieve the best health possible for them selves, empowering them to become their own champions. The foundation will present educational forums and conduct innovative research to identify the best practices to treat these patients. Finally, it will advocate for structural changes in the system, ensuring access to quality care for everyone, regardless of their income, ethnicity or ZipCode.
We invite you to join our efforts.
We need fellow healthcare professionals, potential funders, academicians and volunteers to support our efforts. I'm reminded of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, once said; "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
This overworked but passionate doctor believes change is not only possible butundeniable.