BALTIMORE (NNPA)—For centuries, the problem of health disparities among minority populations was a given. BALTIMORE (NNPA)—For centuries, the problem of health disparities among minority populations was a given. The African American community—since the Middle Passage—has suffered disproportionately more from illness and accidents than their White counterparts.
Early in this century, the Tuskegee Experiment was further proof that the pursuit of good health in the Black community was not recognized as important.
Low-level jobs, lack of access to care and lack of adequate health care insurance are to blame for many of the problems. But, on Sept. 24, local, state and federal government health agencies in Baltimore, Md., took the lead in bringing information—and access—to healthcare to those who need it most. In front of City Hall in downtown Baltimore, clinics, hospitals, Medicare/Medicaid and many other partners came together to bring the message of Closing the Health Gap. From prostate health to breast cancer to diabetes to hypertension to smoking cessation, the partners came together for one reason—to reach those who need it most: the under-insured and uninsured.
Michael Carter, of the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) summed up this effort: “It’s about empowering people. Everyone has the right to quality healthcare. Also, everyone needs to learn preventive health, and that can only be accomplished through access to healthcare.”
Doug Wilson, of the Johns Hopkins Minority Cancer Outreach Program, was especially vocal on the issue of prostate cancer in the Black community.
He used Dr. Benjamin Carson, a prominent pediatric neurosurgeon, as an example. Earlier this year, Carson was diagnosed with an especially virulent form of prostate cancer. He recently underwent surgery and found himself on the other end of another doctor’s knowledge and skill—and he had to listen. Carson had to depend on the expertise of others and draw on faith in someone other than himself.
Wilson said: “I think it’s great that Dr. Carson could put himself in that role and recognize the importance of his own health. So many men, especially Black men, will wait out a problem, hoping it will go away. With prostate cancer, that’s not the issue.”
In prostate disease, there are no early warning signs. By the time symptoms become apparent, it’s probably too late. Wilson continued, “Dr. Carson recognized the need to be treated right away. He also recognized the need for some changes in his lifestyle—lessening his workload some, eating sensibly. These are important steps.
“Black men need to learn to discuss these health problems—with their mates and their physicians. Obviously, prevention and early detection are most important. Men, get your prostate checked!” Prostate cancer devastates Black men more than their White counterparts, both in incidence and morbidity.
“Take A Loved One To The Doctor Day” was a national initiative, sponsored locally by Times Community Services Inc., whose president, Dave Johnson, said, “It was more successful than we imagined. Claude Allen, HHS’ deputy secretary didn’t want to leave. He kept on about how great this event was.”
Sponsored by HHS, ABC Radio Networks and supported by the “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” community health centers across the United States participated, offering free screenings for such conditions as diabetes, high-blood pressure, stroke, and HIV; immunizations and flu vaccines; and dental screenings.
Joy Bramble, publisher of The Baltimore Times, and an advocate of minority health, agreed, saying, “This event shows just what can happen when all the players come together, to help close the disparities gap. This is what equal healthcare means…bringing the information to the public and helping them learn their way around the healthcare industry. It’s about parents making healthy choices…for themselves and their families.”
The individual partners were many, inclu