The Challenge

Addressing Health Equity in the Black Community
August 17, 2021

Alexandria, LA. – On June 19, the Southwest Region Conference with Friends and Family for Health Equity (FNF4HE) produced a live webcast focused on black men’s health entitled “The Health Equity Challenge of Freedom.” Listeners found the program fast-paced, informative and inspirational. The webcast addressed black men’s reluctance to see doctors and the statistical tendency for a shorter life span among black men.

“I feel well. Why should I snoop around and find something wrong?” said small business owner Mike Mitchell. “We are in a grab and go society, no time to read the ingredients,” said Sylvester Dotson, an elder of a church in Central Louisiana.

Dr. Julian Watkins of New York outlined the most common causes of black men’s premature death: heart disease, cancer and violence, and when asked by Dr. Vernetta Sampson Johnson if the problem was genetic, he answered an emphatic “No.” “Most of the causes of the gap in longevity are social determinants of health,” said Dr. Watkins. Dr. Watkins also discussed the importance of finding a physician who will listen to you and understand your culture. NBA player Harrison Barnes described how he chose his primary physician because he was a man who looks like him, understands his background, and is someone whom he feels comfortable with.

Dr. Denese Hunter of North Carolina interviewed Dr. Leon Seard, a urologist at UC Irving who outlined what to look for in a checkup. “Is it possible to close the longevity gap? The answer is an emphatic yes, with equal treatment,” said Dr. Seard.

Dr. Tamara Smith, an educator from Reading, Penn., started out imploring husbands, in general, to get a checkup. “There are still bills to pay,” she said with a broad smile. She interviewed experts Dr. Fred Johnson from Northern California and Dr. Gloria Westney from Atlanta Ga., as well as infectious disease specialist, Dr. Marcia Mitchell from Central Louisiana. They discussed Covid-19 updates and pertinent courses of action. Dr. Mitchell said, “My 17-year-old is vaccinated and I am scheduling an appointment for my 14-year old.” The panelist concluded that the pandemic is not over for the unvaccinated.

The program was interspersed with questions from the audience and interviews with pastors who outlined briefly what they were doing in their community to close the health equity gap. Two pastors said they focused recently on police and community relations. Another pastor stated they were focusing on mental health. Jaime Kowlessar, James Co, Calvin Watkins II, Robert Norwood and Tyrone Boyd were engaged and supportive of this project, with the modest goal of saving lives. Admiral Barry Black, as he opened up the webcast quoted John 8:36, saying, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” We pray for deliverance from sin, poor lifestyle and health inequity. Actually, we should do a little more than just pray.

By Christine Ince