Message From Our Executive Director
Brenda Shelton-Dunston, MPH
The following statement was given as testimony before the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Disabilities and Special Needs and Public Health and Human Services on July 28, 2020:
COVID-19 is a magnifying glass that has highlighted the larger pandemic of health disparities and racial and systemic inequities “A Crises Within a Crises” for our community.* For more than 100 years research has documented that African American and Native American individuals have shorter life spans and more illness than white persons. A black infant born in the US is more than twice as likely to die before his or her first birthday compared with a white infant. In adulthood, black individuals have higher death rates than white persons for most of the leading causes of death.
The historical landscape of spiraling health disparities at rates 2-3 times greater than the white community and the resultant morbidity and mortality in the black community was and is fertile ground for the virulence of COVID19.
The work of our organization was honored by City Council with designation of June 2, 2011, as “Creating a Legacy of Wellness: Mind, Body and Spirit Day (CLW).” The CLW Initiative focuses on uniting and mobilizing diverse leaders to work with the community to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities including implementation of effective evidence-based programs focused on health disparities such as the Prime-Time Sister Circle. More than 300 women have participated resulting in 68% loss in weight and 40% reduction in blood pressure. Unfortunately, this program has experienced funding challenges.
There is an urgent need for development and implementation of policies that support collaborative initiatives that focus on and address racism, conscious and unconscious, and health and systemic inequities that exist within our health care systems and health at all levels that conduct transparent work on these issues by honestly examining and developing collaborative, comprehensive strategies with involvement of all stakeholders: “peeling back the onion” and “remove the mask” to advance well-being in an inequitable world.
Pro-actively work towards dismantling the racism that exist in Philadelphia that directly impacts health outcomes, similar to the Pa. Office of Health Equity Advisory Committee, of which I am a member.
Hospitals become involved with testing and conducting laboratory testing on-site to reduce time for receiving results.
Need for a comprehensive plan to focus on and address racism, conscious and unconscious, and health and systemic inequities that exist within our health care systems at all levels: providers, etc. Examine and improve current Cultural Competency Programs for currently employed health providers and integrate comprehensive racism course into curriculums for all students enrolled in health profession programs.
Examine health care systems and organizations governmental support at the local, state and federal levels for opportunities to operate out of silos and sub-contract/contract with black led community-based organizations, train and employ community residents and provide living wages.
COVID has placed “health status” on the radar in our community with residents…..use it as an opportunity to increase awareness of steps that can be taken to reduce vulnerability to COVID19, health disparate conditions, now, in the upcoming fall, winter and thereafter by distributing health prevention materials and resources, messaging on social media, etc.
Fund Black led community-based organizations to:
conduct evidence-based interventions effective in reducing health disparities
conduct health education and awareness campaigns targeting the Black Community
partner with governmental funded contractors to assist with COVID focused program outcomes.
* Dr. Georges Benjamin, previous Executive Director of the American Public Health Association and public health expert, Undefeated, March 19, 2020.
What has become evident is that we must take responsibility for educating and empowering ourselves to make our own health a priority. The Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Alliance encourages everyone to wash hands frequently, maintain social distancing, wear a mask and follow the CDC and local government’s guidelines for combating the COVID-19 virus. Check here regularly for updates and resources regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and related issues.
COVID -19 RESOURCES
by Brenda Shelton-Dunston, MPH