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Colorado Doctor: More 'Minority Primary Caregivers' Can Help Health Care Inequities Facing Black Communities

DENVER (CBS4) - A lot of things contribute to the health dilemmas of Black Americans. Dr. Reggie Washington, Chief Medical Officer of Presbyterian/St. Luke's and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children calls that the "social determinants of health."

A number of health issues are more prevalent in the Black community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says African American adults are more likely to skip the doctor's office because of cost. Black Americans ages 35 to 64 are also 50% more likely to have high blood pressure than white Americans, the agency states.

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It's not always as easy as going to the doctor's and getting a check up.

"If your physician or healthcare provider has put you on medication, by all means take your medications. Often people will get a prescription, and they will not get it filled because it's expensive, or it's inconvenient."

Another problem, says Washington, is hypertension is known as the silent killer.

"Often the patient has no symptoms. If you don't know you have high blood pressure you obviously won't be trying to treat it. So the first thing is to go to a medical facility and have your blood pressure measured."

He emphasizes prioritizing preventative care.

"If you smoke cigarettes and you're overweight, you're likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, or chronic kidney disease. We seldom see a patient with just one of those problems."

The big question is: What is the hospital doing to address these inequities?

Dr. Washington says, "People like to go to health care providers that look and act like them. So we're increasing our minority primary caregivers so that people feel more comfortable getting the care they need, but they also need to have access to health care and that's beyond the total responsibility of the hospital. We have to do a better job as a country of providing places where people can get their health care."

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