Racism is a public health issueBy Veita Bland, M.D. / June 25, 2020
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It harkens my soul as I see finally that society is coming to grips with the well-known fact that racism is a factor in the health of people of color. It is as if forbidden words are now being acknowledged. Now, what is society’s next plan of action?
The American Academy of Family Medicine (AAFP) has sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar. The letter states “It is time for the United Stated to officially recognize racism as a public health issue and declare a public health emergency to address the negative impacts racism is having on the physical and mental well-being of millions of people.” The letter further states that the administration must respond to systemic racism and its threat to public health. AAFP leaders recognize that an urgent call to action is needed as we see the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionately severe impact on communities of color.
It is fine that these facts are being acknowledged. The real question is will there be policies developed that will help to correct the inequities? Changes in the way health care is administered will unfortunately take time to implement.
So, what can be done now to help? Take the time to make sure if you have medical problems that you are cared for. See your healthcare provider. Take advantage of telemedicine services. If right for you and your medical problem, such online video conferences can be scheduled and no copay is charged by the insurance companies. You can use your computer, tablet or smartphone and if none of these are available, a phone call can be used for some problems.
Do not neglect the basics. We recognize that you are just plain tired of this pandemic, but the virus does not care about that and it will infect you and your loved ones. The numbers from COVID-19 cases are increasing in our state and deaths across the country continue to rise. Some projections sadly estimate we may see the loss of more than 200,000 lives by October of this year. We must continue to practice social distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask.
As people continue to practice their constitutional right to protest, please do so responsibly. Remember, public health studies have long proven that masks are extremely effective when used properly. Properly means to have a high-quality mask and one that covers the nose and goes under the chin. Also, remember when people are shouting the effectiveness of the mask is reduced. Protect others by wearing a mask, especially if you are in the presence of people with compromised immune systems or other health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
When removing the mask, always wash your hands. Remove the mask in a way not to touch the outer aspect. If your mask is disposable, throw it away and wash your hands again. If you have been a participant at a recent protest, you should have a COVID-19 test conducted in four to seven days after being at a rally to ensure your health.
The bandage is being removed from the sore of health inequities and life’s inequities for people of color. Unable to heal, it is now laid bare. Now, the question is how will society and policy makers help the healing process? We will see.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at email@example.com.