Meredith Melnick & Lily Workneh -Huff Post Black Voices
The inequalities African Americans battle are plenty and severe — but the widening health gap is arguably among one of the most crucial and inadequately addressed concerns.
Black Health Matters hopes to help change that.
Today, HuffPost’s Black Voices and Healthy Living are launching a new editorial initiative that aims to dissect disparities in health and discuss ways to combat them.
Black Health Matters seeks to raise awareness around the health gap and spotlight efforts to make the medical field more inclusive. We hope, through our reporting, to inspire efforts to engage communities in practicing healthy habits and empower people to make wellness a priority.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we spoke with Dr. Karen M. Winkfield, a Harvard affiliated oncologist about disparities in breast cancer survival rates. Nationally, she said black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer following a diagnosis, compared to white women. In some cities, she said that disparity can jump to as high as 111 percent.
But that wasn’t the most shocking discovery we made during our interview: Winkfield revealed that she was the only black oncologist in the entire state of Massachusetts — and only one of three in all of New England. Her career experiences may be not common among black men and women, but her story, and her voice, should be shared as a way to help inspire others.
Looking at the larger scale, African Americans make up just 5 percent of clinical trial participants. They have the highest cancer death rate and shortest survival time of any ethnic group in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. African Americans are 20 times more likely to have heart failure before the age of 50, and the list goes on: when it comes to diabetes, early onset Alzheimer’s and a host of other conditions, the black community fares worse.
When we talk about structural injustice, we cannot forget our health institutions. From clinical research to quality hospital access to diversity in the very profession of medicine, representation of African Americans is woefully low.
As the Black Lives Matter movement sweeps the nation, it would be remiss to not use this time as a moment to discuss not just the death, but the preservation and physical conditions of black bodies. Conversations can’t end at violence and injury — instead, we must also acknowledge that health, wellness and the security of quality health care are important aspects of a life well-lived.
Black Health Matters is committed to carrying on that conversation — and we hope you join the discussion.