Friday, November 19, 2010

Pope Addresses Health Care, and His Most Vocal Defenders Throw His Words Over Their Shoulders

Interesting: I read the predictable, ideology-driven comments of some of my fellow Catholics at this America blog posting about Pope Benedict's support for universal healthcare, and I wonder where these folks live, who say, "I would argue that all citizens of the US do have access to this level of care."  Or who argue, "Access to minimal levels of health care has probably been around almost everywhere for centuries, if not millenia [sic]."

They certainly don't live in a state like Arkansas, which ranks 48th in the nation in the most recent Kids Count child well-being index, with an exceptionally high child death rate, a high percentage of low-birthweight babies, etc.  We're 45th in the nation among states in which parents have no jobs and 48th in the nation with children being raised in poverty.

Many of these children live in the historically impoverished, heavily African-American Delta region of our state, in which wealth has been unequally distributed for generations and in which economic disparities are compounded by harsh, seemingly intractable racism.  In many Delta communities, there is no doctor.  There are no hospitals, no clinics, no treatment centers in many communities in the eastern half of our state--no chance at all to obtain even minimal health care unless one has transportation and can reach care facilities someplace else.  Getting young medical graduates to consider establishing a practice in these communities is well-nigh impossible.

And it's not just children who lack access to basic health care in these communities.  People in substance-abuse rehabilitation programs who require on-site, long term residential treatment have to look for one or two rare programs in the urban centers of the state, where they're removed from their families and the support network of their families and communities.  And I've just helped write a grant for mammography screening equipment in this same region of the state, for areas in which even that important technology is limited and not readily available to women seeking to monitor breast cancer.

I surely do wish these folks who are convinced everyone in the world has access to minimal levels of health care, and who throw the words of the pope over their shoulders casually even as they claim to be the most orthodox Catholics of all, would spend a few years living in places like the Arkansas Delta, at the level of subsistence income many Delta residents have.  Or perhaps they could live in a barrio in Latin America or in most of Africa and then write that "access to minimal levels of health care has probably been around almost everywhere for centuries, if not millennia."  Or perhaps they could live in the many other areas of this nation that experience serious health care challenges similar to those I'm describing in my own back yard: in native American communities, in urban centers with high concentrations of poverty, in the many rural areas in which doctors and hospitals are few and far between.

I might believe that they are reporting accurately if they reported that health care provision is adequate for everyone, after walking in those folks' shoes just a tad.  (And I'm not posting at the America blog site after I found myself censored there, but nothing prevents me from talking freely on my own blog about material posted at this site.)

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