The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus is drawing attention to national and statewide health disparities between Black and white Americans in an effort to educate fellow lawmakers and build consensus for action ahead of the fall veto session.
At news conference Friday outside of the Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville, ILBC Chairwoman state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, discussed the near-fatal pregnancy of pro tennis player Serena Williams.
“When Serena Williams gave birth to her daughter Olympia, she nearly died a day after giving birth due to complications. Her initial request for treatment was ignored and doctors took more time to assess what she knew to be blood clots,” Lightford said. “When she wrote about her experience, it helped shed light on high maternal mortality rates among Black women in the United States, and Illinois. Black women are six times as likely to die of a pregnancy-related condition than their white counterparts.”
According to Lightford, Black Illinoisans are 3.4 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white Illinoisans as the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated long-existing racial health disparities.
Health care and human services make up the fourth and final pillar of the ILBC’s veto session legislative agenda to end such disparities which stem from systemic racism.
State Sen. Mattie Hunter and Rep. Camille Lilly, both Chicago Democrats, are leading the effort on health disparities.
“African American children are 60% more likely to have asthma than their counterparts. Black Americans are 45% more likely to suffer from hypertension, high blood pressure, and have greater risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and ultimately death,” Lilly said. “African Americans and Black people are more likely to experience poor health outcomes as consequences of social influencers. Health inequities stem from economic instability, lack of education, physical environment, lack of food.”
The Senate Human Services and Public Health committees held a joint hearing on health disparities and social determinants of health care Friday, the latest in nearly a dozen joint hearings prompted by the ILBC’s legislative agenda.
According to Lightford, the hearings – which include testimony from experts and stakeholders in the four pillars of criminal justice, economic equity, education and health care – are meant to educate the public and the ILBC’s non-Black colleagues on the issues and disparities facing Black Americans.
The ILBC intends to present legislation addressing the four pillars during the veto session that is scheduled for Nov. 17-19 and Dec. 1-3. Democratic leaders, including Gov. JB Pritzker, state Senate President Don Harmon and state House Speaker Michael Madigan, have all publicly pledged to support the ILBC agenda and corresponding legislation.
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October 9, 2020 at 05:13PM