A desert right in the middle of Baltimore

As an eye-opening op-ed in the Baltimore Sun pointed out last week, there are places in the U.S., even densely populated places, where access to essential medications is quite difficult. Acutely, pharmacies remained closed in Baltimore in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray riots. But there is a larger, more systemic problem, as the op-ed explains:

Chronically ill black and Hispanic residents are nearly half as likely to take lifesaving medications than whites with similar illnesses, largely because they don't have access to them. . . .

[M]inority residents are more likely to live in "pharmacy deserts." There are substantially fewer pharmacies in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods.

This gap in pharmacy access, which we found had widened over the last 10 years, may worsen amid the expected rise in pharmacy closures planned by retailers such as Walgreens. Unfortunately, but not unpredictably, the vast majority of these closures are likely to occur in minority neighborhoods, since they are less profitable likely due to greater rates of care for the publicly insured. Retail pharmacies are, after all, part of the private sector, often leveraging a public good for financial gain.

The author, a professor at the University of Illinois, notes that life expectancy within Baltimore can vary by twenty years depending on where a person lives. Read the whole piece, including a proposal to address the problem, here.

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