Honoring Black History Month: Advancing Health Equity and Beyond

As February unfolds, we honor and celebrate Black History Month, a time to recognize the invaluable contributions of Black individuals throughout history. Beyond celebration, however, this month also serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing struggle for equity and justice, particularly in healthcare.

Historically, Black communities have faced significant disparities in healthcare outcomes, a reality underscored by complex factors ranging from social determinants to systemic biases within the healthcare system. At NPHI, we recognize the urgency of addressing these disparities and are committed to centering the experiences of vulnerable populations in our pursuit of equitable healthcare for all.

Our People Over Profits Blueprint outlines the critical need for earlier and sustained engagement of palliative medicine, particularly in communities facing disproportionate health challenges. Alarmingly, while some disparities have diminished in recent years, the cause often lies in the declining health of majority groups rather than improvements in minority health. By centering the experiences of vulnerable populations, we can elevate the quality and accessibility of care for all.

We acknowledge the profound impact of mistrust in the healthcare system on health outcomes within Black communities. NPHI’s survey data indicates that a considerable number of Black individuals actively avoid seeking healthcare due to perceptions of mistreatment and a lack of trust in the healthcare system’s treatment of their ethnic group. This avoidance contributes to lower rates of primary care utilization and a higher incidence of chronic diseases within Black communities. These findings underscore the pressing need for culturally competent care and concerted efforts to rebuild trust within marginalized communities.

Highlighting the disparities in healthcare outcomes further emphasizes the urgency of addressing these issues:

  • 47% of Black adults have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, compared with 36% of white adults.
  • Black adults are 30% more likely than whites to die prematurely from heart disease.
  • Black men are twice as likely as white men to die prematurely from stroke.

Furthermore, disparities in pain treatment and access to palliative care further exacerbate health inequities. Black patients are significantly less likely to receive adequate pain medication, and there is a pervasive lack of awareness of palliative medicine among non-white communities. Addressing these disparities requires not only systemic change within healthcare institutions but also a commitment to amplifying voices and experiences that have historically been marginalized.

NPHI’s commitment to addressing health inequities extends beyond recognition to action. We are dedicated to working tirelessly, alongside our members, to improve health equity across all communities. At NPHI, we believe in providing the highest quality care to everybody, and we will continue to advocate and strive for healthcare that truly encompasses everybody. Our upcoming Health Equity resource promises to be a game-changer for the serious illness community, further reinforcing our mission to ensure equitable access to care for all.

As we observe Black History Month, let us recommit ourselves to the pursuit of equity and justice in healthcare. Through advocacy, education, and intentional action, we can build a healthcare system that uplifts and empowers every individual, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Together, let us continue the vital work of advancing health equity and honoring the legacies of resilience and strength within Black communities.