By Kenzie Ferguson

Race is often one of the most reliable predictors of life expectancy.

African Americans face poorer health outcomes across the board. African Americans are more economically disadvantaged with disproportionately high rates of asthma, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and obesity. According to research done by sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, in 1899 infant mortality was almost twice as high among blacks as whites; it is now 2.34 times higher. Today, in the middle of the global pandemic, minority populations are hit disproportionally harder. One in 1,850 Black Americans has died of COVID-19, even though geographic factors should make African Americans less likely to be at risk. For example, in Washington, D.C. African Americans are less than 46.9% of the population but account for 76% of COVID related deaths. These disparities are a signal of the impact of racism on public and individual health.

African Americans face gaps in health coverage, uneven access to services and poorer health outcomes compared to white counterparts. These inequities are the result of institutionalized discrimination and decades-old policies that must be intentionally named and dismantled.

Then there is the issue currently – and rightly – dominating the national conversation: the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others.

We, as a donor, use data to drive our decision making and fund efficacy-based approaches to overcome barriers to care. Social determinants of health are the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and play (e.g., housing, education, income, community), which affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes and have a bigger influence than the individual risk factors (such as behavioral risk factors or genetics). Imbalance in social determinants of health are caused by the unequal distribution of power, income, goods and services, globally and nationally. According to the World Health Organization, “The unequal distribution of health-damaging experiences is not in any sense a ‘natural’ phenomenon but is the result of a toxic combination of poor social policies and programmes, unfair economic arrangements, and bad politics.”

The medical community understands this and is also speaking out. The American Academy of Pediatrics (A.A.P.), American Medical Association (A.M.A.) and the American College of Physicians (A.C.P.) each named racism a public health issue. The A.M.A., in describing a recent study about the effects of law enforcement-involved deaths of unarmed black individuals on the black community stated, “The trauma of violence in a person’s life course is associated with chronic stress, higher rates of comorbidities and lower life expectancy, all of which bear extensive care and economic burden on our healthcare system while sapping the strength of affected families and communities.”  

As the A.A.P. has stated “systemic violence requires systemic response.”

We agree, and we are all in.

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation asserts that racism is a social determinant of health and will invest accordingly. As an initial step, the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation has made a $100,000 donation to the NAACP Empowerment Programs. In addition, Delta Dental is double matching all employee donations to select organizations that promote racial equality.

To those who are suffering, frightened or angry, we see and hear you. To the black members of our company, community and country, we stand with you.