This year, July 18th marks Black Leaders Awareness Day. The event is set aside to celebrate the accomplishments and experience the wisdom of past, current and next-generation figureheads in the black community.
These pioneers have worked tirelessly to improve diversity and inclusivity across the globe in multiple industries. We want to ensure they remain at the forefront of society amongst leaders from other communities.
Many have significantly impacted the medical industry and enlightened others on the disparities still faced today.
We want to use this day to build understanding and voice these issues in order to build upon the results achieved by many of these individuals. Our medical community is one uniquely placed to open the eyes of others to circumstances and worries different to their own.
Throughout history, racism within the medical industry has often been based on the ignorant myth that black people’s bodies work differently and are overall inferior to those of the white race.
As a result, many people in the community have had less, incorrect or lower-quality access to treatment and advice. Especially in areas where we see disparities such as infectious diseases.
Not only that, but those working in the industry have also faced serious discrimination – finding it harder to progress, have their voices heard and break stereotypes.
So, let’s celebrate Black Leaders Awareness Day by looking at some pioneers in the field, starting very close to home.
Did you know that in the UK, black people are at least twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as others? The community has been and continues to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
There is not enough research to determine a definite cause or factor for this statistic, but it is one that clearly highlights the issues still faced today.
A wide variety has been examined, however, from social and economic equalities to biological factors. It is thought that living in more densely populated areas, the increased likelihood of being a key worker and existing health conditions are some of the main factors associated with this ethnic minority and contracting Covid-19.
It is scary to think that even with access to the NHS and free care in this country, there is a community more susceptible to dying from certain viruses and diseases.
Dr Kizzmekia Corbett is a viral immunologist and lead scientist on the team that developed the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.
Not only has her involvement led to the immunisation of millions, but she continues to speak publically alongside other black leaders to build trust in vaccines and other medicine amongst her community.
Despite being hit disproportionately hard, a lot of the black community remains mistrustful of medicine and medical institutions given the history of racist policies and practices.
Dr Corbett now focuses her time on public speaking as well as mentoring young women of colour in STEM.
Dr Jones is a physician, epidemiologist and ex-president of the Public Health Association who has dedicated decades to realising, measuring and fighting against the impacts of racism on the health of those living in the US.
Her aim is to widen the debate about social determinants of poor health across minority communities. There are many elements surrounding this topic that are difficult for many to understand or discuss and so by creating a platform that educates – there is hope that her work may lead to a National Campaign Against Racism.
Black Leaders Awareness Day is not only celebrating those who have actively participated in work for the community but those whose legacies and impact lives on.
The year 2020 marked 100 years since Lack’s birth. Having died at the age of 31, she had previously been diagnosed with aggressive Cervical Cancer at one of the only hospitals in the area that would treat people of colour.
Whilst at the hospital, a doctor removed some of Henrietta’s cells without consent or knowledge from Lacks or her family. This was unfortunately legal at the time and in doing so, he noticed that these cells were essentially ‘immortal’ – replicating rapidly with an extraordinary ability to survive.
Since then, her cells have been involved in key discoveries within the cancer, immunology and infectious disease fields. One of their most recent applications being within the Covid-19 vaccine research as well as historic polio and HPV vaccines.
However amazing her contribution has been to the entire medical industry, her story also highlights the racial inequalities within the system.
Due to the lack of institutions willing to welcome ethnic minorities, access to proper healthcare was slight or non-existent for much of history. As well as this, none of the profits made from her contributions was ever given back to the Lacks family, nor were they approached for further consent or compensation.
However, decades later, the family entered into a data use agreement, providing them with more control over the regulation of further discoveries using Henrietta’s cells. Because of this, her legacy lives on and continues to pave the way in multiple medical fields – also proving that dedication and education are the way forwards to achieving justice.
Shockingly, there are a huge number of disparities in Black women’s healthcare, including even the ability to access proper levels of treatment and support. But it does not stop there.
Much like we mentioned earlier, some of these factors could be down to causes such as pre-existing health conditions. However, to this day Black women are still mistreated within the healthcare industry because of racism and false beliefs.
Many professionals still even operate under the false belief that black women have a higher pain tolerance. This can result in omitted access to pain relief or the assumption that treatment for injury and certain illnesses is unnecessary because they can live with it.
Racism has been shown to have a direct impact on health outcomes – both mental and physical. It can lead to conditions such as anxiety, high blood pressure and even premature births. So even the case of discrimination in day-to-day lives could be impacting their well-being and the outcome of larger medical occurrences like pregnancy or disparities such as HIV.
There is also a lack of black doctors and nurses in the NHS. In fact, the gov.uk website shows that as of 2020 77.9% of all NHS staff were white. This can lead to feelings of mistrust and anxiety amongst black women when attending appointments, doubled with the fear of discrimination and racism.
It’s vital that we continue to support black-led initiatives such as Black Leaders Awareness Day, in order to help address these issues. Education is key in promoting change. Black women deserve to feel confident, safe and supported throughout any health journey they may experience throughout their lives.
With access to services like our own here at The Surrey Park Clinic, people of every race, religion and background can be guaranteed the advice, support and treatment they need to maintain their health and wellbeing.
It also allows for more research to be undertaken, improving the entire industry’s understanding of health disparities within the Black community.
We are also proud to have an incredibly professional team made up of people of many ethnicities who have originated from and studied all over the world in a range of specialities.
Because of this, we pride ourselves on having created an inclusive, welcoming environment for everybody who needs our services. We believe this should be the case all over the world and that more should be educated on the issues still faced by people of colour today.
From screenings to testing and wellbeing services, medical care should not be a luxury. Nor should it be provided differently to people of varying community backgrounds.
July 18th is an important date to remember in order to keep fighting for black rights and progress, and also a time to celebrate pioneers in the community – both past and present.
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this day by sharing this blog or stories of your own with us on social media. Using the hashtag #BlackLeadersAwarenessDay will ensure your support is recognised by like-minded others and that you can help spread the word to as many people as possible.
Don’t forget, if you feel let down in any way by your healthcare provider, it is important not to stop seeking help but to ensure you speak up for your body. There are teams out there like our own that will ensure you get the best possible care in a way that ensures you feel safe and seen.
Give us a call.