Mrs. BEATTY. First, let me join my other colleagues in thanking my freshman class members, Mr. Horsford and Mr. Jeffries, for leading the Congressional Black Caucus' important discussion tonight on eliminating health disparities in America.
Tonight, you are hearing a lot of statistics because it is so important for us to let America know that low-income Americans, racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved populations often have a higher rate of disease and fewer treatment options and reduced access to health care. So you will hear facts tonight.
The facts are that African Americans have the highest rate of high blood pressure of all population groups and tend to develop it earlier in life; African Americans are twice as likely to have diabetes than Whites; African Americans are twice as likely to die from stroke than Whites; African Americans are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than White men; and African American women younger than 40 years of age are more likely to develop breast cancer than White women; infants born to Black women are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to die than those born to women of other races or ethnicities; African Americans are estimated to be 44 percent of all new HIV infections despite representing only 13 percent of the U.S. population.
These disparities are shocking, and the Congressional Black Caucus will not let us ignore them. In 2009, health disparities cost the United States economy $82.2 billion. We have to continue to bring awareness to this issue within our communities and develop strategies to eliminate these disparities in a cost-effective way.
On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, which is a monumental step that helps us address these overwhelming statistics in health disparities within our communities. We now have in place comprehensive health care reform that improves access to affordable care and guarantees that millions of our most at-risk citizens will finally be able to receive care. By improving access to quality health care for all Americans, the Affordable Care Act actually reduces health disparities.
We share this information so citizens will know that this law invests in prevention and wellness, that it gives individuals and families more control over their own care, that it expands initiatives to increase racial and ethnic diversity in health care professionals by strengthening cultural competency training for all health providers, and that it improves communications between providers and patients.
As a lifelong health care advocate and as a stroke survivor and as an African American woman, I know the importance of protecting access to affordable health care coverage for all Americans, particularly for those who are most in need. We need to continue to move forward with this legislation and with initiatives that eliminate health disparities in America, and I look forward to continuing to work with all of my colleagues to improve our health care system. In order to have a successful Nation, we must have a healthy Nation. So this is my clarion call to all my colleagues--Democrats and Republicans--to help us make progress on this critical issue.