The 2022 Black History Month theme, “Black Health and Wellness,” explores "the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also informal community practitioners (e.g., birth workers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora.
"Black Health and Wellness" takes a look at how American healthcare has often underserved black communities.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has recently shown, a widespread disparity of access to quality healthcare negatively impacts outcomes for Blacks and other minorities.
For Black folks, the root of the problem goes deep, and back centuries. Beginning with slavery, a lack of economic opportunity often put medical care out of reach for many Black people. Even in good economic times, during the Jim Crow era "Whites Only" hospitals were commonplace throughout the South. Black medical facilities were often understaffed, underfunded, or non-existent. This stark reality gave credence to the saying: “When white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia.”
Black folk remedies helped pick up the slack involving rituals and incantations, harking back to its African roots. Many plant-based medicines were also part of the cure. These included garlic for high blood pressure and aloe vera for skin injuries which have since been validated in scientific studies.
It was only into the 20th century when Black America was given a better shot at institutional health care. That's when the US government threatened to withhold Medicare payments to "Whites Only" medical institutions and -- almost overnight -- hospitals were desegregated. The year was 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. More than 40 years later, following years of negotiations with the health insurance industry, the Affordable Care Act was eventually passed by the Obama administration that gave better access to medical care for Americans of all colors.
Today, (almost unbelievably for a rich industrialized nation), the US continues to lag behind the rest of the world in providing affordable medical care for a majority of its citizens. As a result, Black people, other minorities, and especially the poor, remain among the country's most vulnerable populations.
Race, Equality and Health Care for African Americans
12 Black American Pioneers Who Changed Healthcare
The Historical Significance Of Doulas And Midwives
Dr. Ulysses Grant Bourne