After the assassin’s bullet took his life on April 4, 1968, aged just 39, medical examiners found he had the heart of a 60-year-old. Many suggest this was because he had for so long carried the burden of so many.
Had he lived, might he also be dealing with a chronic medical condition such as asthma? Chances are – he would.
Asthma is a growing concern in the United States, particularly among inner-city African-Americans. Studies have shown that African-Americans are 3-4 times more likely than whites to be hospitalized for asthma and 4-6 times more likely to die from asthma. Poverty, sub-standard housing resulting in increased exposure to certain indoor allergens, lack of education, inadequate access to health care, and the failure to take appropriate medications all contribute to the development of severe asthma and its chronic consequences.
Equally shocking, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, black children have a 260% higher emergency department visit rate, a 250% higher hospitalization rate, and a 500% higher death rate from asthma, compared to white children.
Although MLK didn’t give many speeches about healthcare, in March 1966 he famously said “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane”.
Forty four years later, in honor of his birthday isn’t it time that we start to address this?