Your neighborhood can
affect your health, to the
detriment of many racial
groups, according to
psychologist Brian Smedley.
BY CHRISTOPHER MUNSEY
About one-third of the money spent on health care for African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanics in the United States is excess cost, created by health
inequalities associated with higher rates of chronic, debilitating
diseases among those groups, according to Brian Smedley,
PhD, of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in
Speaking at an APA 2011 Annual Convention session on
health disparities, Smedley said that for too long, the discussion
about why those disparities exist has focused on individual
habits: what people eat and whether they smoke, get enough
exercise or see a physician regularly. What’s missing, he said, is
an acknowledgment that racial segregation continues to affect
racial and ethnic minorities’ health, by channeling them into
areas of high poverty that lack things like schools with good
resources, grocery stores that sell healthy food and public parks
that offer opportunities to walk, bike or run.
For Smedley, using psychology to reverse this pattern isn’t
just a matter of justice, but of national economic importance.
“Health inequities have an enormous economic burden for the
nation because one of the drags on the recovery is the fact that
we have tremendous health gaps,” Smedley said.