Honor Your Health During Black History Month
- Created on January 30th, 2007
Every February we tend to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and the other freedom fighters who paved the way for racial equality. Unfortunately, we often do not speak the names of the African–American sojourners who helped give us access to medical treatment and care. While some African–Americans still face barriers to quality medical care, it is important for every person of color to remember the names and accomplishments of the African–American doctors, clinicians, and researchers who worked unceasingly to eliminate racial and health disparities while improving the health and overall quality of life for all Americans.
As The National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc. (NCBA) celebrates Black History Month, we speak the names of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (1856–1931), surgeon–in–chief at Freedmen’s Hospital located in Washington, D.C., who founded the National Medical Association in 1895 and was the first African American to serve as a charter member of the American College of Surgeons, and Dr. Charles Drew (1904–1950), a pioneer researcher in blood plasma for transfusion and the development of blood banks. He was the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank, a professor at Howard University, and chief surgeon at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. We remember Dr. David Satcher, who directed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) until he was sworn in as the 16th Surgeon General of the United States of America in 1998, and Dr. Ben Carson, who at age 32 became pediatric neurosurgeon at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. Dr. Carson led the 70–member surgical team responsible for the successful separation of Siamese twins joined at the cranium. We also salute the first Black female astronaut in NASA history, Dr. Mae C. Jemison, also an accomplished researcher in vaccine research.
During this time of celebration and reflection, everyone should take a few minutes to remember to schedule appointments with your doctors, or find a new doctor. This may include an internist, dentist, podiatrist, nutritionist, psychologist, and other specialists who can provide you with the tools and resources to improve your overall health status. It is your responsibility to become an advocate for your own health.
While we are living longer with a better quality of life than our ancestors, African Americans still continue to face serious health challenges. Diabetes continues to be a serious health challenge for African Americans–especially women. Complications from diabetes rank among the top 10 causes of death for all women. Whether diabetes is an underlying cause or among multiple causes of death, the toll on women, especially women of color, is significant. Obesity, another condition associated with African Americans, continues to increase, according to an August 2006 report from Trust for America’s Health (TFAH). Currently, all states are failing to meet their national goals for reducing adult obesity levels to 15 percent or less by the year 2010. And diseases and conditions such as Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease are most assuredly on the rise.
Given the sacrifices and commitment of our ancestors, African Americans should continuously appeal to policymakers at the national, state, and local levels for legislation to make health care affordable for everyone while promoting healthy living through nutrition, physical activity, and medical screenings and prevention.
To continue "the fight" to eliminate racial and health disparities, national organizations such as NCBA work diligently to raise awareness, knowledge, and participation levels of senior consumers. We also partner with community–based organizations, volunteers, and others to deliver health promotion, health education, and wellness activities that help African Americans and other minorities improve their quality of life.
More importantly, NCBA is determined to advance the spirit and work of those who have paved the way for African Americans and other minorities today and what may be needed to bring a better tomorrow for future generations.