While February is Black History Month, we at Health Power prefer to call it Black Heritage Month, and focus on Saving Black Heritage by Saving Black Health. Although the following quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not widely known, he emphasized the unacceptability of health disparities years ago: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane”.
Even with improvements in the general health of the U.S. population over the past 50 years, health disparities among African Americans and other racial and ethnic populations are still far behind. Consider the fact that African Americans still have higher morbidity (illness) and/or mortality (death) rates from key health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, stroke, and HIV/AIDS than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S.
The reasons for well-documented racial and ethnic health disparities include, for many of those who are affected:
- Decreased health awareness;
- Lower priority on preventive health through risk reduction, often because of competing demands and various stress producing conditions;
- Decreased socio-economic status (often poverty), and
- Decreased access to health care, especially high quality health care.
While Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed to the “injustice” in health care, we believe that if he were alive today he would encourage African Americans and other people of color to focus not so much on getting good health care as “staying healthy”. In other words, he’d be preaching the benefits of disease prevention and risk reduction through the adoption of healthy lifestyles and health practices. In this way, Dr. King would argue, the need for disease prevention and control instead of the kind of care one receives.
That is why we strongly advocate:
- Prevention, which is always better than a cure, and
- Early disease detection and control as the next best thing.
This means African Americans and other people of color must commit themselves to a plan for physical, mental and spiritual health and wellness that will work for them.
To protect Black heritage and the heritage of other underserved populations, encourage them to improve their health and the health of their family members, other loved ones, and communities. Also, remember and live by the Health Power motto:
Knowledge + Action = Power!