From Canada to Argentina the pattern is striking: In Colombia, black babies are twice as likely to die before their birthday compared to the general population. In one U.S. neighborhood in North Memphis, the city where Martin Luther King died, the infant mortality rate among women of African descent is higher than that of much poorer populations, including Nicaragua, El Salvador and Vietnam.
Conference Ties Health Inequities to Region’s Slave History
March 23, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: John Sankofa
Do humans carry history in their bodies? According to organizers of the International Conference on Health in the African Diaspora – ICHAD 2012 – today’s health disparities facing people of African descent across the Western Hemisphere are in no small part “a ripple effect of the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” which ended over a century ago.
“ICHAD 2012 is essentially a ‘case study’ of a regional population with a peculiar social history,” said Dr. Thomas LaVeist. He said this history has given rise to social, cultural, and economic patterns that, in turn, perpetuate distinctive racial patterns in health.
Today, there are approximately 160 million descendants of the Transatlantic Slave Trade living in the Western Hemisphere – from Canada to Argentina. Roughly 3 out of 4 blacks in the region live south of the US border. During the period of slavery, which lasted from the 15th to the late 19th centuries, African captives were shipped across the Atlantic and dispersed widely throughout North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. The demise of slavery was promptly followed by regional patterns of racial marginalization.
Sharp racial inequities persist to the present day. Throughout the hemisphere, people of African descent tend to live poorer and sicker, receive less health care and a lower quality of care, and die younger than the general population. Afro-Brazilians are twice as likely to live in poverty compared to the general population. In Colombia, babies of African descent are twice as likely to die before their first birthday compared to the national average. The same distinctive pattern holds true for African American babies in the United States.
ICHAD 2012, which will be held July 4-8 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, is a multidisciplinary conference that will explore how the descendants of the slave trade are faring and what can be done to improve their health. “History provides a powerful lens for understanding the present,” said LaVeist, “because it shows how the social determinants of health operate across time and regional geography,” said LaVeist.
He said conference organizers strongly support the United Nations International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (March 25).
ICHAD 2012 is organized by the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The conference is funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. To register or obtain more information, visit www.ICHAD.com. The website is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.