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DISCRIMINATION TOWARD BLACK WOMEN IN HEALTHCARE

By: Za’nyah Muhammad

Who do I trust? Will I leave here ok? Will I be treated fairly? Can you please speak to me with care and respect? Will my child be taken from me? Will my pain be discounted? All of these questions and many more run through the mind of a black woman or black mother when faced with a simple hospital visit. Black women have long been the victims of healthcare negligence and inequality, especially during childbirth. What should be one of the happiest moments is all too often filled with unbearable sorrow for many black families. Black mothers are three times more likely to die during or after childbirth when compared to our white counterparts. Historically black women's bodies have been objectified, hypersexualized, and our pain put on display for the world to see. In my research as a young black woman, I have found that we have had to continuously pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, put on a strong face, and move forward. But this should not be the case when it comes to those who take a vow to heal. Doctors. Henrietta Lacks is just one example of the ill-treatment of a black woman at the hands of the doctors and scientists. Mrs. Lacks’s cells have long been known to scientists, but the ethical controversy surrounding these cells made them world-famous. Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old mother of five, died of cervical cancer on October 4, 1951. While her illness was a tragedy for her family, for the world of medical research, and beyond for every one of us on the planet, it was a miracle. Lacks' cells, which were surgically taken from her tumor before she died, have been responsible for some of the most significant medical breakthroughs. Polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, genetic mapping, and IVF - these health milestones and many more have come down to the life and death of a young mother. Since 1951, HeLa cells have been wiped out by radiation and tested with countless drugs. And all of this and much much more has led to hundreds of thousands of ideas and new knowledge that helped shape the development of medicine. And HeLa cells are still very plentiful these days. One researcher has estimated that if you lined them up, they would orbit the planet at least three times! Journalist Rebecca Skloot along with Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah Lacks discovered puts the American healthcare system and beyond in the hot seat of scientists worldwide who rely on patients' goodwill but fail to communicate effectively. What they discovered was that while Lacks' cells were changing the face of modern medicine, not only were her husband and children ignorant about them, but they also lacked proper medical care. What surprises most people the most is that Henrietta's cells were taken without her knowledge and consent. There is much to fret about in the medical ethics of this era. And the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks is just a small part of a larger story of immorality fueled by racism. But the anger and distrust generated by the situation can be particularly damaging especially to the black families experiencing it. There are many sins in the healthcare system. Racism, deception, exploitation, and injustice spread throughout research and treatment. Black women face health risks from discrimination, both from health professionals who do not take their concerns seriously and from biological wear and tear caused by chronic stress. In the context of life, it is undeniable that minority groups are affected by racism and discrimination in the healthcare system. The life context includes racism, discrimination, poverty, homelessness, incarceration, intimate partner violence, stigma, and trauma. Black women often lack integrated health services to address these issues, and at the same time, their needs are often ignored by their health care providers, meaning they do not receive the treatment they need. When comparing blacks and whites, there are many health inequalities, such as maternal mortality, infant mortality, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other ailments. Economic hardship, educational disparity, and a lack of access to health care are social issues limiting a person's capacity to live a healthy and productive life. For people in American society who experience racism and inequality in their daily lives and throughout their lives, the impact of social factors on health is most severe. Some believe that individual and systemic variables can never work together, to them I suggest taking a look at the implied prejudices that are to blame for racial inequalities in health. Undocumented immigrants and documented immigrants who have been in the nation for less than five years are unable to obtain public health insurance according to US rules and regulations. Residential areas are still incredibly divided. We have a two-tiered healthcare system where individuals with private insurance receive excellent care while those without receive average care. A broad number of structural variables cause people of color to be sicker than white people and receive inferior care. Suppose hidden racial prejudices among healthcare practitioners contribute to increased morbidity and death among people of color. In that case, we must acknowledge that persons with implicit biases practice medicine within and alongside institutions that harm people of color's health. Few Steps We Can Take Immediately That Will Meaningfully Impact This ●Recruiting more black students into the healthcare field. Black representation in the field could change much of the outcome. It would also build trust and understanding amongst the black community. ●Mandate anti-racism and unconscious bias training. ●Data on Black moms' health outcomes should be tracked and published. ●The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States should revise their regulations to address the underlying causes behind Black women's poor involvement in clinical trials and volunteer research. ●Greater research money should be devoted to illnesses that disproportionately affect black women. When it comes to protecting black women, we should all be LOUD. Speak out. This world needs black women, and we need black mothers. Black women should never be fearful of the institutions set in place to protect and care for all. What has been a historical abomination should not prevail in our future. References 1.https://www.liebertpub.com/#:~:text=Although%2C%20on%20average%2C%20Black%20women ,morbidities%2C%20obesity%2C%20and%20stress. 2.https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/05/28/996603360/trying-to-avoid-racist-healt h-care-black-women-seek-out-black-obstetricians 3.https://www.endofound.org/the-disparities-in-healthcare-for-black-women 4.https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-11-17/stuff-the-british-stole-sarah-baartman-south-africa-l ondon/100568276 5.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd9NITWpcp0 6.https://www.bcg.com/publications/2020/innovation-data-1 7.https://www.jefferson.edu/content/dam/tju/StudentLife/humanities/10-28medica_bondage2.p df

Za'nyah is a home-schooled 10th grader who just started Cosmetology classes at the Coshocton County Career Field. She won the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) Spring 2022 racial justice essay contest with her essay "Discrimination Toward Black Women in Healthcare." 

Za'nyah Muhammad

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November Board Meeting Keynote

Tammy Simkins

ERA: A Woman's Journey

Tammy Simkins became an advocate for the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.) in 2012 when she learned of its unfinished status at Ohio University. Ever since, she worked for ratification through the 3 State Strategy.

She co-authored and coordinated the successful “We The People” 2013 E.R.A. White House Petition which officially put the Obama Administration on the record as a supporter of the E.R.A. and brought grassroots E.R.A. advocates together–especially through social media. She co-founded ERA Action in 2013, co-hosts The Call: A Program to Pass The ERA, and chairs the League of Women Voters of Chillicothe/Ross County’s ERA Committee.

Tammy graduated from Ohio University with a B.S. in Political Science and Gender Issues and an Undergraduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies in 2013  (she earned an Associate of Arts with a Humanities emphasis in 2011) and was presented with the Ohio University-Chillicothe Heritage Day Award for her work on the E.R.A. the same year.

In 2022, Tammy founded Widows’ Walk in honor of her late husband, Tom, with whom she shares three daughters, a grandson, and two granddaughters. It is for their future, and the future of all Americans, she works to ensure the E.R.A. becomes the 28th Amendment.

Highlights of the August State Board Meeting
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