The city of Berkeley’s annual health report, released in July, found numerous health disparities among racial and ethnic groups in Berkeley.
The Health Status Report provides insight into the various health issues Berkeley faces and emphasizes the disparity in relation to health between white people and people of color.
Among the disparities found in the report were higher teenage birth rates for Black and Latinx Berkeley residents, lowered fertility rates over the past 10 years for the Black populace and higher rates of hospitalization for injuries for Black children in Berkeley than for any other racial or ethnic group. The report also found that Latinx and Asian children were more likely than white children to live in poverty, which leads to deficiencies in nutrition and nurture that are often detrimental to health.
The report acknowledges that strides have been made in improving health care in numerous areas, such as an 82 percent decrease in overall teenage birth rates in Berkeley. But it also states that certain health issues have worsened, including the sexually transmitted disease rate and the rate of hospitalizations due to high blood pressure.
“(The report) sees improvement in many areas such as pregnancy and birth outcomes, childhood vaccination rates, rates of smoking, and increasing life expectancy but still shows troubling disparities for African Americans and other people of color,” said a press release from the city.
For example, chlamydia rates in Berkeley have been lower than the state’s rate historically, but in 2015, Berkeley’s chlamydia rate exceeded those of both Alameda County and California. In general, sexually transmitted disease rates are at “epidemic levels,” according to the report.
The report also found that Black residents in Berkeley are the least likely to have a bachelor’s degree among adults 25 and older — a finding that was among the “social determinants of health” investigated to explain the health disparities.
In investigating the health differences among racial groups, the report found that Black families make 28 cents to the dollar that white families in Berkeley make.
“In Berkeley, African Americans and other people of color die prematurely and are more likely than White people to experience a wide variety of adverse health conditions throughout their lives,” the report said.
City spokesperson Matthai Chakko said the city plans to use the report’s findings to address these inequities.
The city does offer programs dedicated to empowering people of color and other minority groups. The Berkeley Black Infant Health program aims to improve birth outcomes and decrease health care-related challenges affecting Black mothers and their children. In addition, the Berkeley Women, Infants & Children Program, or WIC, provides services related to nutrition and food attainment for mothers and their children.
“Generally speaking, we operate a number of different programs … to provide resources and to provide support that address health inequities. … We’re a very unusual city in that we have our own public health division,” Chakko said. “While these health inequalities are not new or unique to Berkeley, they are unjust.”