The coronavirus pandemic has brought to light the significant health disparities that exist within the African American community. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the pandemic is “shining a bright light” on these disparities. African Americans are more likely to suffer from underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19. These disparities are not limited to the pandemic, but rather are rooted in systemic issues that have existed for generations.
First, we must focus on preventative care, including encouraging the community to get regular check-ups, health screenings and education on healthy life choices, to help identify and prevent underlying health conditions from worsening, reducing the risk of severe illness or death from diseases. In response to the pandemic, the health committee hosted a panel of medical doctors and first responders from the police and fire departments to discuss the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, and how first responders were responding to emergency calls for service. The branch hosted a COVID-19 testing fair that attracted 635 people. We provided testing for blood pressure, diabetes, as well as provided fresh organic produce, as part of our prevention strategy. In partnership with Huntington Hospital and the Pasadena Public Health Department, we converted our office into a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, where we provided over 300 doses of the vaccine to Pasadena residents and coordinated a campaign using billboards and posters designed by the Animation Guild to encourage the Black community to get vaccinated. As a Covered California enrollment site, our branch addresses health disparities; the Black Health Initiative will focus on several key areas.
Access to healthcare
Second, we must increase access to healthcare for African Americans. This includes ensuring that healthcare facilities are in areas where we live and providing resources to help cover the cost of healthcare. Additionally, healthcare providers must be trained to provide culturally competent care, understanding our unique healthcare needs and experiences.
Address Systemic Inequalities: Health Disparities
Third, we must address the root causes and social determinants of health disparities, such as poverty, racism and discrimination, access to healthy food and safe housing, and provide resources and support to help African Americans overcome systemic barriers to good health. To this end, we must increase our investment in research on health disparities and how to address them. This helps to identify effective interventions and strategies for improving health outcomes for African Americans. The exciting piece of the health initiative is the creation of a medical advisory board to help inform and guide its work. “In conclusion, the Pasadena Branch NAACP Health Initiative will focus on: preventive care; increasing access to local and surrounding healthcare; addressing root causes of healthcare disparities locally and provide recommendations for change; investing, developing and providing a new level of research to analyze local healthcare delivery systems; and to educate or better educate our community on how to maximize quality of life and healthy longevity.”