Officials in the “city of angels” say systemic racism may have turned it into the city of sexually transmitted diseases.
Frustrated officials who spoke to the Los Angeles Times this week for a piece on an emerging health crisis say they are at a loss for ways to combat rising rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and other STDs in the county. Members of the WeCanStopSTDsLA coalition, the county’s Center for Health Equity, the Department of Public Health, along with other experts concurred that they have been unsuccessful at curbing high-risk behavior.
“The numbers are only going up. What’s going on is unacceptable,” Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, L.A. County’s interim health officer, told the newspaper on Monday.
“If you keep doing the same thing and expect a different result, then that’s insanity,” added Dr. Michael Hochman, a senior health deputy.
Some of the grim statistics provided by the newspaper include:
- “The number of gonorrhea cases in Los Angeles County doubled” in the last five years.
- “Half of chlamydia cases and a third of gonorrhea cases diagnosed each year are among people between the ages of 15 and 24.”
- “Syphilis rates among African American women are six times higher than white women and three times higher than Latina women” in Los Angeles County.
“The one thing I never do, and I hope others don’t as well, is blame these young people for not taking care of themselves,” said Barbara Ferrer, head of L.A. County’s Department of Public Health.
Heather Jue Northover, the director of the city’s Center for Health Equity, pinned the city’s health woes on racism.
“Northover said that officials need to evaluate what’s called structural or systemic racism, the way housing or education policies may negatively impact people and their health,” the newspaper reported.
The official also noted mistrust of the medical system among African Americans as a reason for the population not seeking appropriate care.
“We need to take a wider lens,” Ms. Northover said.