The mortality rate among Black women are three times higher than white women during pregnancy and childbirth.
In the District, the life expectancy for Black men is 68 years, compared to 83 for white men.
Health care professionals discussed these and other health care disparities and challenges among Black communities Friday, March 29 during the National Association of Black Journalists’ media institute on education and health.
“The sicker our patients are, the more of a strain it is on the [health care] system,” said Tinisha Cheatham, a medical doctor with the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, a physician-led private practice that partners with Kaiser Permanente. “If one part doesn’t work, it affects the next. We found that prevention is going to be the key.”
The all-day discussion at Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health in Northeast also delved into Alzheimer’s and young people who experience traumatic events such as school shootings and deaths in the family.
Black journalists and other attendees also heard about ways to improve education such as hire and retain Black teachers, revamp the curriculum and school buildings and focus on solutions and not problems for student achievement.
Angela Robinson, co-star on Tyler Perry’s show “The Have and Have Nots,” served as a guest speaker and talked about being a college graduate of a historically Black university, specifically Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida.
“You can learn who you’re going to be and learn your studies anywhere, but how you as an individual — a Black woman or a Black man — fit into that thing was what was specific for me at FAMU,” said Robinson, who received a bachelor’s degree in sociology. “I actually feel in love with me there.”
One main theme from participants: quality and equitable education can improve the lives of children into adulthood.
A panel discussed ways to eliminate disparities in physical and mental health.
“Leaders should raise the alarm about Black men,” said Kevin Dedner, founder and CEO of Arlington, Virginia-based HenryHealth, which helps Black men in the D.C. area overcome mental health challenges.
Before Black men grow into adults, they’re children reared by Black women who have a maternal mortality rate three times as white women during pregnancy or childbirth, the panel said.
Carla Sandy, a medical doctor who practices in obstetrics and gynecology, said the maternal mortality rate “is worse now than it was in 1980.”
One reason for that in D.C. is the pending closures of Providence Hospital and United Medical Center, which has caused some of Sandy’s patients from Ward 8 to travel at least an hour away for care.
“There’s been some proposed solutions that may not actually solve the problem because the proposed hospitals aren’t in the areas where they’re needed,” said Sandy, a member of the Medical Society of D.C. “The constituents of those elected [need] to get the right people who will take this seriously and provide the resources that are needed where they’re needed.”
Linda Goler Blount, president and CEO of Black Women’s Health Imperative in Atlanta, said several states in the South haven’t expanded Medicaid that limits access to prenatal and infant care. In addition, lawmakers incorporated “anti-women” policies.
Beside the phone number of the health care provider, Blount said Black men can help pregnant wives and girlfriends secure phone numbers of hospital presidents, chiefs of staff, board chairs and chief nursing officers.
“You want to go in and assume everything is going to be fine,” she said. But “if things don’t start going right, you get folks on the phone. You don’t take bad service from a repair guy. Don’t take it from your doctor.”