Black History Month Health Events Look at Race Bias
By Dianne Anderson
Long before race bias in health systems was trending, Ernesta Wright was pushing advocacy, trying to debunk some of the myths that keep the community from getting the healthcare they need.
Then and now, her concern was to bring the facts to the community for informed decision-making, and learn the best options from the top of the line medical professionals.
On Tuesday, February 7, Wright is calling advocates to come out and talk about how to hold leaders accountable this year at the Social Justice & Advocacy Cohort Meeting, held online from 5-6:00 p.m.
For most people, she said hearing about healthcare just one time is not always enough to motivate them to take action.
“We like the idea of updating communities in prevention and screening, we have an extraordinary group of men and women of the black community to be able to help with the messaging, to have a balance and share information.”
More people are signed up with the Affordable Care Act, which she feels it’s a start toward understanding how to use the system, but there is a lot to be learned about how the community can gather the right information, and avoid being misinformed.
Later this month, on Saturday, February 25, ActNOW Health Conference presents “The Year of Action,” focused on mental health, prevention, advocacy, and benefits. Featured speakers include Dr. Monica Calhoun, Health Philosophy; Dr. Ricardo Parker, Healthy Eating/Plant Based Nutrition and Dr. Richard Seard (UCI), Prostate Cancer. Event participants will hear from professionals about solutions that can be applied right now. Registration is required.
“We have to know how to advocate for ourselves, this is life support information that we share,” she said.
Wright also organizes 25 Black-led organizations and businesses in a statewide effort that comes together monthly to address outreach training, sharing health research, and learning to target their message for better community access.
Two years ago, she initially started the project with funding from health and human services. Since then, it has grown, but when the funding ended, her participants wanted it to continue.
The program also assists congregations, community groups, fraternities, organizations, and collaborations with capacity building – all to ensure the right information and resources are getting out to the community.
The G.R.E.E.N Foundation also partners with Orange County Community Foundation and their social justice goals for another year to improve health outcomes with advocacy and navigating health systems.
Last year, she was active in the Orange County Human Relations anti-hate efforts through an advocacy boot camp, teaching the community how to advocate for themselves.
“It’s very empowering to learn that you have the power to change things,” she said. “We also know that the system itself is biased. It doesn’t support our ethnicity, so we have a double whammy.”
Local doctors and medical experts are also gearing up to share their muse this Black History Month, expressing what they really feel at the University of California Irvine.
On Thursday, February 23, the Sixth Annual Poetry Symposium: Healing & Hope Through Diverse Journeys is hosted by Illuminations: The Chancellor’s Arts & Culture Initiative, and runs from 6-8:00 p.m.
Dr. Candice Taylor Lucas, Health Sciences Associate Clinical Professor at UCI College of Medicine, is participating with her three poems entitled, “The Skin I’m In,” “Can You See Me,” and “Walls.” The event focuses on the impact of racism on healthcare providers and outcomes, exploring a little-known side of her profession, that many with a heart for medicine also foster a creative bent.
“Almost everyone that’s presenting will be a medical student, or physician, or affiliate faculty member. it is a unique tie,” said Dr. Lucas, a co-director of the college’s LEAD ABC project, along with Carol A. Major, MD.
When it comes to healthcare, she believes that what is typically referred to as access to services is just the start of the conversation.
“Having available providers is important, and having providers who are able to meet the needs of our Black community with cultural humility in the care that we’re providing. There’s more to that, we’re not just adding one on one care,” said Lucas, who is also participating in the minority health fair coming up in April.
Along with access to insurance, making sure a local clinic or local hospital is available, as importantly quality of care is critical. Having a relationship with the providers is needed to address inequity, she said.
And, the actions of some providers within the community need to be brought to light.
“I think institutions have to evaluate that, to make sure they’re calling it out and identifying that it’s happening and address it. It’s the key to realizing – versus just continuing to try to yell into the ether that these things are occurring,” she said.
For G.R.E.E.N Foundation events, see https://www.thegreenfoundation.net/
To learn more about LEAD ABC (Leadership Education to Advance Diversity – African Black and Caribbean) see, https://www.meded.uci.edu/curricular-affairs/lead-abc.asp