Story by Britton Barnette / Contributing Writer
Healthcare disparity continues to be a problem in the African American community.
As a result, these issues were discussed by a panel of medical experts on Monday night as part of Middle Tennessee State University’s Black History Month celebration.
“If you look at life expectancy for race,” said panelist Dr. Andre Churchwell, a Harvard Medical School graduate and Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Vanderbilt University, “Black men have been stuck in the sixth decade on average just until the last two or three years, when we finally went from 69 to 70 to 71. Most Black women, white women and white men live on average 10 to 11 years longer.”
Another panelist, Courtney Clardy, who uses her master’s degree in social work to serve middle Tennessee, discussed how mental health is also a rampant healthcare issue in the African American community.
“We have a lot of people of color who experience anxiety and depression at a higher rate, as well as any other stress disorder. Recently there has been a challenge to the DSM-5 because of a lot of misdiagnosing in relation to people of color and their trauma,” said Clardy.
She continued, “I’m really proud that we are having the conversation, and we are talking about it more and we are getting curious about it. And we are trying to get into a relationship of being able to trust what will happen when we are able to get the mental health services that we need.”
The panel discussed topics ranging from the lack of minority representation in healthcare workers to something as simple as the need for transportation to get to a place where medical care is available.
In response to transportation needs, Churchwell discussed a program currently being practiced that brings hypertension clinics to barbershops around the Jefferson Street area in Nashville. This program would train barbers to take their client’s blood pressure and help bridge the physical and trust gap between Black males and healthcare.
The students and faculty who attended the panel were astounded at the healthcare gaps in the Black community.
“There are so many different health discrepancies that I had no idea about,” said Zoe Haub, a student who attended the panel. “It was amazing educating myself and sitting back…listening and learning about the community.”
“It was surprising to hear that among white and Black women and men, that Black men had the lowest life expectancy by 10-12 years.” said another student, Shailene Roker.
The rest of the panel consisted of LeShan Dixon, the Rutherford County Health Department Director, Dr. Dallis Green, a general surgeon in the U.S. Navy, and Charlotte Woods, the Director of Minority Health at the Tennessee health department.
Churchwell also discussed a troubling figure that shows how Black males are not only struggling but that the current data only shows the Black males eligible for data gathering.
“Another aspect, which is a scary figure, is that 1.5 million African-American men between the ages of 20 and 40 are either dead or in jail, and not really a part of the population statistics of people out in the community.”
Photo by Britton Barnette / Contributing Writer
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