In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially designated February as African American History Month. In the 40 years since then, we've taken this month to recognize how far we've come as a multicultural society and celebrate the great strides we've made. But we should also focus on the remaining obstacles we face and must solve together, including challenges in public health.
While our country's overall public health landscape continues to improve, some health concerns still disproportionately affect the black community. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic, white Americans, and are at far greater risk of further related complications such as renal failure and visual impairment. Heart disease also weighs heavily on America's black communities -- it is the leading cause of death among African Americans, and black men have a 30% greater chance of dying from cardiovascular disease than their white counterparts.
These numbers present a stark reality; but real solutions to fix these issues exist. Just last year, the Affordable Care Act paved the way for more than 2 million African Americans to enroll in health insurance, dropping the uninsured rate by nearly 7%. More than 500,000 African American young adults (19-26) who would have been uninsured now have coverage as well, promoting better health among America's younger generation and ensuring people have access to the medicines and procedures they need. The success and scope of this program has given millions more Americans, and specifically America's minority communities, a greater chance of a better quality of life.
From large government agencies, like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS), to smaller advocacy organizations, our country is constantly working to overcome these hurdles and strengthen the health of America's minority communities. By tackling this issue from all angles, America can move together toward this common, necessary and very achievable goal. And when effective policy, passionate advocacy and unwavering commitment coincide, true health equality can become our standard rather than our ideal.