Health lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King’s life reminds us of the  tragic effects of interpersonal violence; his mother, Alberta Williams King, also died violently.

 

updated January 15, 2022

The Reverend Dr. King led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968.

His famous “I have a dream” speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. is  remembered, read, and recited by people all over the country if not the world on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day every year.

The  United States observes the third Monday of January as a federal holiday in honor and memory of the birthday of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929)

quote from Martin Luther King about hate

Violence, a major health risk

Dr. King’s life reminds us of the  tragic effects of interpersonal violence. His life ended suddenly and prematurely when, on April 4, 1968, an assailant shot him as he stood on a hotel balcony. He had delivered his last speech just the day before. The shooter was apprehended, and after confessing to the murder, sentenced to life in prison where he died.

Most people know of Dr. King’s assassination, but don’t know his mother, Alberta Williams King, also died violently. At age 69, sitting at the organ of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Mrs. King was shot and killed on June 30, 1974. Her  23-year-old assailant received a life sentence and died in prison.

Violence between persons creates social, economic and political problems, and serious medical consequences. It is a leading cause of death, especially in children, adolescents and young adults.

Non-fatal injuries often cause severe and permanent disability that changes lives, burdens families and increases medical costs astronomically. These include

  • TBI, traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries leading to paraplegia, quadriplegia, ventilator dependence
  • Amputations of limbs
  • PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder; other forms of anxiety; depression
  • Chronic pain, often leading to opiate dependence

Here is a previous post  about  why and how we need to address violence in our society .

Why we need to end violence and how to stop it

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.

Dr. King

The risk of health disparities

This observance also reminds us of the problem of health disparity. Health disparities are

preventable differences in illness, injury, violence, or access to health care that happen to  socially disadvantaged populations.

These populations can be defined by factors such as

  • race or ethnicity,
  • gender,
  • education or income,
  • disability,
  • geographic location (e.g., rural or urban),
  • sexual orientation.

Health disparities are directly related to the past and present  unequal distribution of social, political, economic, and environmental resources

This has been especially true with the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC lists several reasons why this has occurred.

  • There is evidence that people in racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to live in areas with high rates of new COVID-19 infections (incidence).
  • Crowded living conditions and unstable housing contribute to transmission of infectious diseases and can hinder COVID-19 prevention strategies like hygiene measures, self-isolation, or self-quarantine.
  • Racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented in essential work settings such as healthcare facilities, farms, factories, warehouses, food processing, accommodation and food services, retail services, grocery stores, and public transportation.19,20,21,22 
  • Some people who work in these settings have more chances to be exposed to COVID-19 because -close contact with the public or other workers, not being able to work from home, and needing to work when sick because they do not have paid sick days.
  • Social determinants of health may also influence access to testing.
  • Underlying medical conditions that increase risk for severe illness from COVID-19 may be more common among people from racial and ethnic minority groups.19 Common underlying conditions among those who require mechanical ventilation or died included diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, chronic kidney disease on dialysis, and congestive heart failure. 20 
  • Together, the evidence from the provisional death data from NCHS and recent studies clearly illustrate the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 deaths among racial and ethnic minority groups, particularly Hispanic or Latino, non-Hispanic Black, and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native people.

Long before COVID, doctors knew our Black patients fared worse with many common serious diseases

Learn Why 7 Deadly Diseases Strike Blacks Most  from WebMD

I have a dream over the image of Martin Luther King Jr.
photo by Ruel Calitis, Lightstock.com

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies,

education and culture for their minds,

and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.

Dr. King

You can learn more about Dr. King and listen to part of his famous speech at

Biography.com

"I have a dream" by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Plaque honoring “I have a dream” speech by Dr. King , in Washington D.C. looking toward the Washington Monument

You can read the full text of the speech at

I Have A Dream….

The following book suggestions lead to affiliate links which may pay a commission to this blog at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me fund this blog.

a biography about Dr. King written for children

I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am Martin Luther King book

exploring the HEART of health equality

Thank you for joining me to remember the late Dr. King.

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Dr Aletha

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