Dr. Christopher King is a lecturer in the UMD Dept. of Health Services Administration and Director & Assistant Professor, Health Systems Administration at Georgetown University

November 2, 2016

There are fewer people living without health insurance in the Washington, D.C. region than a decade ago, but that doesn’t mean severe health disparities are any less prevalent, reported Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show on Nov. 1, 2016. A report released this summer by Dr. Christopher King, who received his doctorate from the SPH Department of Health Services Administration and now serves as adjunct professor in the SPH Department of Health Services Administration and as director and assistant professor in Health Systems Administration at Georgetown University, found that African-American men in D.C. have expected life spans that are 15 years shorter than their white peers.

“The majority of residents in our nation’s capital have insurance,” Dr. King told host Kojo Nnamdi during the show. “We’re at 97 percent, which is high, it’s a model for the nation. You’d expect a trend where people are doing well, they have access to high quality health care. But when you think about what shapes a person’s health status, it’s based on the community: where they eat, live, work, where they play.”

Access to health care is only one part of the picture, he added. “If you have the best health care system in the world, it only represents 20 percent of your health care status,” he said. “The remaining is based on social and economic factors such as housing, employment, income, family support, physical environment.”

When you stratify the data by race and ethnicity, Dr. King said, there are stark differences in health outcomes, with African Americans facing significantly higher rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension. “For years, the health care system was relied on to be the solution,” he said. “People looked for too long at the health care system versus other factors.”

Nnamdi led a discussion about the historical roots of these disparities and possible solutions. Along with Dr. King, guests on the show included D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Walter Smith and Dr. Peter Beilenson, CEO of Evergreen Health Cooperative and former Howard County, MD, health officer.

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WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show: The Challenge Of Reducing The D.C. Region’s Health Disparities

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Christopher King