Reparations would not only help close the growing racial wealth gap in the U.S. but would have reduced covid-19 infections and deaths, according to a new study.
Some health experts say that reparations would help address racial health inequities and would most likely have protected many in Black America from getting sick.
Reparations could have reduced covid-19 transmissions in the overall population by as much as 68 percent, according to a study led by Harvard Medical School.
The study used Louisiana as its test state. Reparations experts Kirsten Mullen and study co-author William Darity, who wrote the award-winning reparations book, “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century,” selected Louisiana as an example of the impacts of structural racism in the U.S. because it was one of the few states that reported infection rates by race in the early onset of covid infections.
The study, published online on Feb. 9 in Social Science & Medicine, indicates that if reparations had been made before the covid-19 pandemic, transmission in Louisiana’s overall population could have been reduced by anywhere from 31 percent to 68 percent, Medical Xpress reported.
“Wealth is more strongly associated with familial or individual well-being,” said Darity, who is the Samuel DuBois Cook Distinguished Professor of Public Policy at Duke University and a Lancet reparations commissioner.
In 2019, Black households reported an average wealth of $142,500 — $800,000 lower than the average white household, affecting the quality of health, according to the Federal Reserve Board 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances.
“This dramatically restricts the ability of Black Americans to survive and thrive,” Darity said.
Other study authors included Dr. Eugene T. Richardson, Dr. Momin M. Malik, Dr. Michelle E. Morse, Maya Malik, Dr. Aletha Maybank, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Dr. Paul E. Farmer, Dr. Lee Worden, and Dr. James Holland Jones.
“While there are compelling moral and historical arguments for racial-injustice interventions such as reparations, our study demonstrates that repairing the damage caused by the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow racism would have enormous benefits to the entire population of the United States,” said study senior author Dr. Richardson, assistant professor of global health and social medicine in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School.
Black people have been disproportionately affected by covid-19 infections and death. This, say, health experts, can be blamed on preexisting conditions and poor health care in Black communities.
“Cash restitution would save lives,” said Harvard University FXB Center for Health and Human Rights Director Dr. Mary Bassett, who recently urged that reparations be used as a strategy to decrease health disparities in a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“There is a strong positive correlation between socioeconomic status or income and health outcomes, including mortality,” Bassett told ABC News.
With financial stressors lifted by reparations, Black people would be much more able to focus on their health, said Dr. Chyke A. Doubeni, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research.
“We already know that if you feel secure, you’re more likely to exercise more, to have less stress, to gain less weight, not develop sleep apnea — you name it,” said Douben.
But some health advocates say it will take more than reparations to end healthcare inequalities. “A racial hierarchy that has endured for 400 years is unlikely to simply disappear,” said Bassett. “It will take more than reparations.”
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Dr. Zea Malawa, Director of Expecting Justice’s The Abundant Birth Project agreed that “reparations are just one component,” but undoing centuries of racial bias in the medical system will also help ease racial health disparities. Malawa has studied health outcomes of supplemental income for pregnant and postpartum Black and Pacific Islander women. She also examines inequalities of the past.
“One difference is, cash payments can be used for anything, instead of food stamps being for food, for instance,” said Malawa. “What if your need is that your car needs to be fixed so you can work? Cash is flexibility and dignity to meet one’s needs as one needs them to be met.”