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Kenya V Beard

What Does It Take to Improve Societal Health?

By Kenya V Beard

May 4, 2017

 


Chances are you have or you know someone who has asthma, hypertension or diabetes. These are serious illnesses that raise morbidity and mortality rates. Medicine alone is not enough to manage these conditions. To start, individuals should eat healthy foods, avoid cigarette smoke, have access to jobs, health care, and safe communities.

 

But what if you live in a community where there is no grocery store, the air quality is poor, or the unemployment and poverty rates are so high, health is no longer a priority? These conditions are just a few of the realities that impact health for so many individuals. For example, the Morrisania section of the Bronx was once called a “food desert”; a place where grocery stores did not exist and access to fresh fruits and vegetables was inadequate. So exactly how could one eat healthier? In New York, there are some midtown districts where the air quality is at unacceptable levels. What affect does that have on individuals who have asthma and work in those areas? Lastly, there is a direct relationship between poverty and health. Individuals in poor households tend to have worse health outcomes for reasons beyond their control.

 

How do we improve the health of our society when we know that a prescription for medication does not translate to healthier food on the table, better air quality or employment? What are the lessons learned from our past that can be used to inform our future?

 

In the book, Out in the Rural: A Mississippi Health Center and Its War on Poverty, Dr. Thomas J. Ward takes us back to the early 1960’s to explore the triumphs and challenges faced by Dr. H. Jack Geiger and others who established the first rural community health center in the United States, the Tufts-Delta Health Center. The Center was established during a time when many African Americans were denied access to health care. When health care was accessible, they had to use the back door, wait in separate rooms or were expected to tell the doctor what their problem was because some doctors refused to touch them. In addition, since emergency care required immediate payment, some died on the hospital steps. Some communities in Mississippi faced astonishing health care challenges that led to the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the country. But that was all about to change.

 

Tune in to HealthCetera to hear the conversation with Diana Mason, Kenya Beard, and the author of Out in the Rural: A Mississippi Health Center and Its War on Poverty, Dr. Thomas J. Ward. Find out how the Tufts-Delta Health Center addressed the social determinants of health, provided comprehensive health care, and improved the health of a community. Indeed, the lessons learned 50 years ago could still be used today. So tune in on Thursday, May 11th at 1:00 PM to WBAI, 99.5 FM in NYC or streaming at www.wbai.org. 

Kenya V Beard

How Knowledgeable are You?

By Kenya V Beard

April 17, 2017

If you had to rate your level of knowledge on a scale of 1-10, how high would you score if 10 indicated extremely knowledgeable? Now, think about all there is to know in the world and again, rate how knowledgeable you are. Did your score change? If it did, don’t worry, you are not alone.

Many people think they know a lot more than they do and offer strong opinions on matters they know relatively little about. Consider how discussions supporting or opposing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could result in adrenaline-raising debates. A brief pause to discuss the details of the ACA and implications of a repeal could silence the conversation or cause greater confusion. In healthcare, a lack of awareness regarding the limitations of one’s knowledge could prove disastrous. So why do individuals tend to overinflate their level of knowledge?

Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach are cognitive scientists who explain why in their just released, soon to be best seller, Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone. The authors state that individuals tend to argue issues based on values and attitudes rather than a deep understanding of details and implications. In addition, information is just so readily accessible it is easy to exaggerate what one knows. The delineation between one’s own knowledge and that which is borrowed is sometimes blurred. Besides the embarrassment of opining on matters that reveal one’s true explanatory depth, the inherent dangers of the “knowledge illusion” could range from damaged relationships and stalled polices to medical errors and plane crashes. So how can a better understanding of the “knowledge illusion” improve safety, lead to less polarizing debates, and spark a more informed discourse?

Steve, a professor at Brown University and the Editor in Chief of the journal Cognition and Phil, a professor at the University of Colorado, will join me on HealthCetera to respond to the above questions and discuss the importance of collective wisdom. Be sure to tune in to HealthCetera on Thursday, April 20th at 1:00 on WBAI, 99.5 in New York City or go to www.wbai.org to stream live. Or, you can listen anytime by clicking here:

 

Kenya V Beard

Will the ACA Repeal Jeopardize Your Right to a Healthy Life?

By Kenya V Beard

March 9, 2017

https://www.thinkculturalhealth.hhs.gov/

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is being dismantled, individuals may wonder whether they will lose their health care coverage. Although the language of the new health care law has not been finalized, the bill could jeopardize an individual’s right to health equity; the opportunity to achieve one’s highest level of health.

 

When access to health care is denied, the right to a healthy life is threatened and one’s risk for becoming part of the morbidity and mortality statistics heightens. For example, Ms. Smith lived in an area where asthma rates were high. When she subsequently developed asthma, she required medication and follow-up care to control her condition. While her health care costs were covered by her insurance, she maintained a high level of wellness. However, when her job downsized and she found herself unemployed after two decades of service, she had to decide between paying her mortgage or keeping her health care insurance. Her decision to pay her mortgage came at the expense of her not being able to adequately manage her asthma. The stress of being unemployed undoubtedly contributed to an increase in her asthma exacerbations and emergency department visits. One night a severe attack killed Ms. Smith before she could make it to the hospital. What happens to individuals who, like Ms. Smith, do not have health care insurance?

 

Without adequate health care insurance, asthma could cost you your life. The Center for Disease reports that over 17 million individuals have asthma and each year 1.6 million emergency visits are made and more than 3,000 individuals die from asthma. Most of the time these deaths could have been prevented. It is no secret that in the United States, individuals with low income or who identify as African American, Black, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, or American Indian have been disparately impacted by health care policies. Indeed, lack of access to health care has been linked to poorer health care outcomes and shorter life-expectancy rates for the above groups.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once stated that Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman”. Next month is Minority Health Month. Agencies around the country will be discussing ways to promote health equity across communities and emphasizing the social, economic and environmental issues that influence health. Health equity requires access to education, better job opportunities, safer environments and affordable health care. Greater awareness of the injustices that jeopardize health care outcomes, increase disease rates, and reduce life expectancy for some groups is critical. It is time to tell the stories of individuals like Ms. Smith and change the racially driven stereotypes that have been used to falsely explain why certain groups have higher rates of disease and poorer outcomes. Tell your story and speak up for your right to a healthy life throughout Minority Health Month and beyond.

 

 

Kenya V Beard