Breaux calls for legislative study of racial disparities in state’s health system

INDIANAPOLIS – Across Indiana, the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting minority communities. State data has revealed that a much higher percentage of COVID-19 cases and deaths involve people of color compared to the total population size of those communities. During the 2020 Legislative Session, State Senator Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) authored a resolution asking for a study on how the state can reduce the racial disparities plaguing Indiana’s health systems. Given the exacerbated effect COVID-19 has on Hoosiers of color, Sen. Breaux authored a letter on Friday to again urge the Legislative Council to assign this important topic for study. Sen. Breaux was joined by other members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) in this call to study the state’s racial disparities in health care.

This letter comes in addition to the IBLC’s call to the governor to address COVID-19 racial disparities. As a result of a recent meeting with the IBLC, the governor has convened a COVID-19 Health Disparities Task Force Committee. Both IBLC Chair Robin Shackleford and Sen. Breaux will be members of the new task force.

You can read the full letter here:

Dear Leaders,

During the 2020 Legislative Session, I authored a resolution asking for a study on how the state can reduce the racial disparities plaguing Indiana’s health systems, including offering scholarships for people of color interested in pursuing a health care career. Indiana has consistently seen poorer health outcomes for African Americans compared to their white counterparts, and the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing this dynamic even more starkly. This is why I am asking the Legislative Council once again to assign the issue of racial disparities in Indiana’s health care systems to a study committee this interim.

The outbreak of the coronavirus is exposing the continued prevalence of higher rates of public health problems and lower access to care in communities of color. Still, the surprise to me has been the severity of the differences for black Hoosiers’ rates of infection and death as compared to the overall population. Statewide in Indiana, almost 30% of COVID-19 cases and 27.2% of deaths involve people of color, even though we make up only 12.4% of the total population. Marion County, in my district, has been identified as a national “hot spot.” Here, African Americans comprise 30% of the population, yet make up 34% of the deaths attributed to COVID-19. Compared to white residents making up 66% of the population in Indianapolis but 47% of deaths.

It comes as no surprise that the black community, communities of color and poor communities are being disproportionally impacted. There is a long-held maxim that when America gets a cold, black communities get pneumonia. Stereotypes held by health care workers, lack of diversity among health care staff and a host of systemic inequalities facing communities of color continue to exacerbate poor health outcomes. But, this is a problem that absolutely can be addressed. That is why I urge you to accept my request to study, during this interim, the racial disparities in health care, and give this topic the prioritized attention this moment in time requires. The study should include input from the Interagency Council of Black and Minority Health and consideration of their previous policy proposals. The committee assigned this topic should also request updates from the Office of Minority Health within the Indiana State Department of Health on the status of their Minority Health Plan. To not address an issue made so obvious by our ongoing health crisis would be irresponsible.

By accepting this request, you would show that this topic is important and crucial to ensuring improved health outcomes for all Hoosiers, and that public policy can be an effective tool to help make Indiana a healthier and safer state. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Jean D. Breaux
Assistant Minority Leader
Indiana Senate District 34

Rep. Robin Shackleford, Rep. Earl Harris, Rep. Ragen Hatcher, Rep. John Bartlett, Rep. Carolyn Jackson, Sen. Eddie Melton, Rep. Gregory Porter, Rep. Cherrish Pryor, Sen. Lonnie Randolph, Rep. Vernon Smith, Rep. Vanessa Summers

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Sen. Breaux represents Indiana Senate District 34 which includes the near eastside of Indianapolis including portions of Center, Washington, Lawrence and Warren Townships. For more information on Sen. Breaux’s legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit www.IN.gov/S34.

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