Juneteenth and Health Care

This week United States President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. signed a bill making Juneteenth (June 19) a federal holiday. According to an Associated Press report, the House voted 415-14 on Wednesday to send the bill to Biden, while the Senate passed the bill unanimously the day before. 

“This is a day of profound weight and profound power, a day in which we remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take,” Biden said.

While is it good that Biden signed the bill, it is just a step in the direction to acknowledge the brutal treatment of African Americans who were stolen from their homeland and forced to work to build a nation for the profit of others. Reparations still need to be made to African American Descendants of Slavery. 

One prevalent way that racism still flourishes in America is through its healthcare system. Blacks have been disregarded when it comes to receiving adequate medical care. African American (Blacks) are less likely to be given the tools (education and medicines) necessary to prevent chronic diseases. When they do receive the tools, they are distilled to the bare minimum. 

As chronicled in the United States National Library of Medicine in an article published by the Journal of Perinatal Education, “Black and nonwhite women have almost 3 times the risk of death from hemorrhage than white women.”

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, regarding one of the fastest-growing chronic diseases in America, diabetes, the numbers are shocking. 

  • African Americans (Blacks) were twice as likely as whites to die from diabetes.
  • African American adults are 60 percent more likely than white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes by a physician.
  • African Americans were 3.2 times more likely to be diagnosed with end-stage renal disease as compared to whites.
  • African Americans were 2.3 times more likely to be hospitalized for lower limb amputations as compared to whites.

My family knows first-hand how devastating diabetes can be. My father died due to complications from diabetes, my mother, who also had diabetes died from metastatic breast cancer. Diabetes would have killed her, but cancer progressed quicker. I, too, was diagnosed with diabetes. I would not accept the diagnosis of diabetes being a lifetime disease. I researched and found that a diet and lifestyle change freed me from a life-debilitating and life-robbing disease.

I am thankful that education about healthy choices in nutrition is available, but I believe it needs to be more widely available especially to those most likely to suffer from a chronic disease like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and morbid obesity.

The change must start within the health care community. The health care system in America was not set up with the framework of helping to keep the African American community healthy. Because of the way the system was constructed and because of centuries of racism, African Americans are not likely to get the best health care available. This needs to change. Unfortunately, racism permeates the fabric of America. Racism is a metastatic disease that has been allowed to run rampant and kill some of the best and brightest of America’s population. 

One way to start to address racism in health care is to start acknowledging it and taking the necessary steps to reverse it. 

Bob LeRoy the founder of Plant-based Prevention Of Disease (P-POD) started a non-profit organization to educate medical professionals on the health benefits of a plant-based diet. For the past eight years, P-POD has grown and has speakers and participants from all over the world. P-POD holds three conferences a year and discusses a variety of topics including racial disparities in health care, bringing the clinical practice to the community along with chef-inspired courses to help broaden a medical practitioner’s knowledge of applying sound nutrition to the patient dialog.

Mr. LeRoy wrote a long-read piece on racism and white privilege in wake of George Floyd’s murder. Here is a small excerpt of his article.

We will all benefit by taking the view of a historian and being humbled by it. The viability and wealth of this country were built over a few centuries largely based upon two titanic-scale thefts of resources: theft of land resources from displaced Native Americans and theft of labor resources from enslaved African Americans. The implications of those transcendent thefts have spread out to impact the lives of the descendants of their victims, over one or more centuries, just as all the other racism-based actions within the society have meted out their respective effects upon both immediate victims and their respective descendants. As we interact with others in our professional roles or as individuals, we can become conscious of some burdens and some privilege, . . . burdens of those (whether African-descended or otherwise) who have had to cope with racist treatment, whether simply in present moments or in inherited accumulation through their past generations, . . . and the privilege of persons who have been perceived as close enough to default-mainstream-normalized societal race-and/or-class status that they (and likely their ancestors) have been able to avoid that adverse kind of treatment. 

If you are interested in reading more of Mr. LeRoy’s article, you can find it here.