Black Women’s Org Addresses Racial Disparity in Health Issues

The National Council of Negro Women holds its Biennial Affiliates Assembly at the JW Marriott hotel in D.C. on Nov. 4. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)
The National Council of Negro Women holds its Biennial Affiliates Assembly at the JW Marriott hotel in D.C. on Nov. 4. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) recently held its Biennial Affiliates Assembly, where it pushed an initiative of health disparity awareness and clinical trials for people of color.

Eschewing the usual gala atmosphere of elaborate gowns and lively libations, the Nov. 4 event at the JW Marriott hotel in Northwest was an opportunity for the organization and its national affiliates to exchange plans and ideas, particularly concerning Black health issues.

“We all know the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who sought treatment for cervical cancer back in 1951 — whose cells were taken without her or her family’s knowledge or consent, and we’ll never forget about the Tuskegee syphilis study where researchers were dishonest with hundreds of Black men,” said guest speaker Dara Richardson-Heron, chief engagement officer for the National Institute of Health’s All of Us research program.

“These egregious abuses, just to name a few, have understandably led to many minorities being hesitant or skeptical when considering whether to share medical histories or partake in clinical trials,” Richardson-Heron said. “But here’s the problem: these hesitancies have drastically led to limited research and proper medication done on behalf of people of color.”

With African-Americans dying twice as often from Alzheimer’s disease, having a 77 percent higher risk of diabetes, and being twice as likely to die from heart disease than whites, Richardson-Heron strongly advocated for clinical trials and the participation in NIH’s All of Us program.

“Most medicines are designed for the average white patient,” she said. “Through the All of Us program, we are seeking to build the largest and most diverse research cohort data. Our goal is to enroll and retain one million or more volunteers in order to advance innovative health research that may lead to more precise treatments and prevention strategies.”

Though the event’s health segment was informative, other NCNW members and affiliates questioned the organization’s agenda on public policy, with many seeking clarity on the term “public policy” and how to properly address the issues raised.

“Collaboration, communication and public policy will be our new focus moving forward,” said NCNW President Ingrid Saunders Jones. “We will also focus externally and on infrastructure process and procedures, along with fundraising.”

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Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.