Friday, March 24, 2017

Health

If the Republican-backed Affordable Health Care Act  (AHCA) is passed, millions of Americans currently enrolled in Obamacare would lose their  insurance and see fewer benefits and higher costs, especially if you are poor and working class.

Research by the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (CIFA) says thousands of Virginia’s  poorest and vulnerable residents  currently covered by the ACA or  Obamacare, will be harmed by the proposed new health plan which is designed  to replace the current ACA.

Last week the Congressional Budget Office released a report stating that 24 million fewer people would have coverage within a decade and the level of the uninsured would jump 14 million next year,  if the GOP’s health care  blueprint is put in place by then.

In Virginia  according to CIFA policy analyst Michael Cassidy, 31 percent  or more  of the 327,000 people covered by the ACA in Virginia would lose their coverage under the Republican plan.

“The impact will be significant,” said Cassidy. “It is to safe to characterize it that way because thousands of Virginians  are at risk … it will be like a tidal wave.”

The proposed AHCA removes the individual  and employer mandates and reduces the tax credits and subsidies that poor and working class people use to buy insurance under the current ACA in the Virginia.

One of the most hated part of the ACA was the  individual mandate to force people to buy insurance or pay a penalty via the tax system. Using  slight-of-hand,  the GOP’s AHCA will impose a penalty of a 30 percent surcharge  if you  drop insurance and  seek to reacquire it.

Healthcare advocates call it a “bait and switch” tactic the Republicans have not fully explained to supporters of their efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare with Trumpcare.

Now 319,000 people use a tax credit in Virginia under the ACA, based on their income, to acquire healthcare insurance.

The ACHA would use age. The older you, are the higher it will be.

The ACA restricts charging older people more for coverage. The plan the Republicans will be voting in the House this week, would allow healthcare insurance companies to charge older adults up to five times what they charge younger people.  The ACA  barred the companies from charging more than three times.

Under the ACA,  insurance companies had to use profits to directly cover  their clients instead of using it for operating cost, notably high salaries. That rule would die under the AHCA.

Gaylene Kanoyton has  organized educational forums on the ACA over the past four years and Celebrate Healthcare  program to  enroll people in  Hampton Roads.

To date, Celebrate Healthcare has enrolled over 15,000 and educated over 25,000-plus citizens.

Kanoyton said that despite the quickness in which the ACHA has been pushed through the current U.S. House of Representatives it is not sure if it will be  passed as it stands now,
She said there will be an open  enrollment period for the ACA starting November 1, despite the current push to pass the AHCA.

“Even if it does passes, nothing will change  immediately,” said Kanoyton. “It took them three years to get the Affordable Care Act up and running. There would be at least that length of time for the Republicans to set up administration enrollment process and policies.

Plus we are not sure how many of the GOP plan will become reality. Now is too early.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

He’s has already achieved one version of the American Dream.  

After growing up in poverty in Flint, Mich., DeVon Taylor ’12 graduated from Old Dominion University and from Harvard Medical School in 2016. Taylor now has begun a three-year residency in emergency medicine at the prestigious Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. 

And that experience has inspired Taylor to pursue a new version of the American Dream, going beyond personal success: expanding access to health care.  

“A large proportion of the patients we see in the emergency rooms have nowhere else to go,” Taylor, 33, said. “It’s something as a country that I feel we haven’t adequately addressed. Hopefully, that will be an area I am able to make a mark in.”  

Taylor rarely saw a doctor when he was younger. As a teenager in Flint, he lived in a run-down home in a poor neighborhood. His mother worked multiple jobs to keep the family going. 

After barely graduating from high school, Taylor joined the Navy, working in the nuclear power program in Norfolk for more than eight years. When he enrolled at Old Dominion, he had already trained his focus on a medical career.

He graduated in 2012 with a 4.0 grade point average and a degree in public health. Taylor became the first Old Dominion graduate to go directly to Harvard Medical School, and on a full scholarship.

He maintained his ties with the University while at Harvard, mentoring minority undergraduates interested in entering the medical field. 

During his time in medical school, Taylor was national speaker of the House of Delegates for the Student National Medical Association, elected by students representing every medical school in the nation, and served as a member of the association’s board.  

He also participated in several research projects, studying the rollout of the Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations, a new risk-sharing payment model that emerged from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.  

He presented his findings to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

That work fits with Taylor’s belief that access to medical services, particularly for children, is a right that all Americans should enjoy. 

“To me, it doesn’t make sense that we have made this choice as a society, in the richest country in the world,” he said. 

Taylor would like to practice in a medically underserved community. He’d also like to work on the front lines of health policy to ensure that others receive the level of care that eluded him as a youth. 

“There are people who work hard but who still can’t afford the cost of health care,” Taylor said. “Like my mother.”

Brendan O’Hallarn is a public relations specialist at Old Dominion University. 

By Dr. Cynthia Burwell

On Saturday, January 28th, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., members of the community will convene Tackling Health Disparities in the African-American Community Conference at Second Calvary Baptist Church to “deal” with health disparities that have negative health consequences in our community, says D. K. seneca Bock, who is the Co-Chair for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Health Equity Council.

The Center of Excellence in Minority Health Disparities was developed three years ago as one of Norfolk State University’s strategic initiatives in its Six Year Strategic Plan to help promote health equity and eliminate health disparity.

Using the Community-Based Participation Research model, this work includes collaborative research and programming with various community-based health organizations across Hampton Roads and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Health disparities are defined as the “inequalities that occur in the provision of health care and access to health care across different racial, ethnic and socio-economic groups.

During the conference, Bock says the main role she will play is of facilitator and policy expert. Below are comments from three of the conference participants: Dr. Allan Noonan, former Assistant Surgeon General, and pre-eminent health policy expert; Claudette Overton, and Cora Bridgers (both breast cancer survivors) and leaders of the church’s Cancer Ministry.

Community Voices

CB (Dr. Cythnia Burwell):  Dr. Noonan, as one of the founding members of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Health Equity Council, what would you say are some of the most pressing issues on the horizon as it relates to health disparities? Why is it important to have HBCUs be an ongoing part of the solutions to health disparities? What specific roles do you think they might play over the next 5 years?

Dr. Allan Noonan: I see many answers to this question. I think that cardiovascular disease, the health consequences of violence, and the inadequate handling of mental health issues come to mind immediately. All three of these issues have major impact on people of color, are inadequately handled by health systems, and do not obtain the appropriate attention when it comes to prevention.

Members of the community must also realize that all of the prevention is not the responsibility of the medical system. Educational and social systems must consider these issues as they address their priorities. I must also include the whole issue of infant mortality. African-American babies are still twice as likely to die as infants than the average infant. 

African-Americans are 13 percent of the US population, they are nowhere near 13 percent of any major health profession – 5 percent of MDs, 3 percent of dentists, 10 percent of nurses. HBCUs play a major role in the education of African-Americans but are not participants in the nation’s recent surge in the training of health professionals. It is documented that African-American students at HBCUs have better academic performance, greater social involvement, and higher occupational aspirations than those at Traditionally White Institutions. HBCUs can enhance significantly the suitability of the health workforce in serving those in most need of preventive and treatment the communities where health disparities are greatest. They play an essential role in augmenting the pipeline of providers dedicated to eliminating disparities.

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CB: (Dr. Cythnia Burwell): Sisters Overton and Bridgers, how did you become involved in getting the message out about health disparities? And what comes to mind when you think of health disparities?

Claudette Overton: Several members of the Spiritual Support for Cancer Ministry at Second Calvary Baptist Church attended the Dec. 9th Health Disparities Listening Tour.  We were very much interested in this community forum because for over 10 years, we have worked in the church and community to provide education and awareness, access to free mammograms and other supports that were available through agencies like the American Cancer Society and Sentara Hospital.  

This was a major gathering that promoted the exchange of novel ideas and information from a wide range of professionals from   academia, government, medical profession, social services, communities and churches.

When I think of health disparities, I am concerned that where a person lives, or how much money he makes, or the fact that he is a minority, or does not have health insurance, that he would be impacted more by the prevalence, morbidity, and mortality of certain diseases.  This is a subject we all need to be familiar with.  January 15th was Dr. King’s birthday. We must not forget, his entire movement was devoted to equality.   

Cora Bridgers: I attended the forum at Norfolk State because I wanted, and knew I needed more information in order to help the community. Simply put, a lot of people really don’t know or understand what health disparities are about, or what social determinants mean and how they are related to diseases such as heart attack, stroke or diabetes, kidney diseases, poor circulation, etc.

Through my involvement with cancer education, and Fredda Bryan with the American Cancer Society, I was able to learn some things about disparities, but there is so much more to learn. I feel responsible as a servant in my church and the community to help disseminate more knowledge.

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Our Power Up Lunch is sponsored by and supported by a generous donation from Sentara Healthcare. We are most appreciative of their kindness and support.
Reserve your seat at (757) 627-7772, or at (757) 278-2589. Free and Open to Public.

By Terrance Afer-Anderson

A staggering number of Virginia children are living without a health safety net. They are uninsured. According to a recent Urban Institute report, 5.8 percent of all Virginia children, under age 19, did not have health insurance in 2014. That’s an alarming 115,000 children.

But what is it like to be a child with no healthcare coverage? What options are there available? Denise Parker knows those answers all too well.

Parker has extensive experience helping Virginia families secure coverage for their children. Yet, she has also had to find help to get her own children insured. It was that unnerving experience that launched her on a mission that she pursues with unceasing passion.

Parker is a new health educator with the Norfolk Department of Public Health, tasked with identifying and assisting eligible families to enroll in Virginia’s Family Access to Medical Insurance Security programs (FAMIS). She comes to the health department with a background not alone steep in assisting residents with programs like FAMIS, but also with first-hand experience.

Parker has three sons, ages 37, 17 and 14. She shares her modest home with her two youngest. She told me recently, “Both of my boys are athletes. They have been hurt several times.

My oldest son,” she added, “had a concussion. He stayed in the hospital for 2 days and had an MRI to see if there was any swelling.” She then beamed broadly, as she recalled how FAMIS had come to her aid.

“It cost me just $5,” she said. “Suppose I didn’t have insurance. I wouldn’t have been able to pay my bills.” She added that, while he was recovering, her son was also in a home rehab program for six weeks. The cost was only $5 per visit.

Parker is genuinely appreciative of the role that programs like FAMIS have played in her sons’ lives. “They have been covered since birth, beginning at 6 weeks of age,” she said. It is that direct experience, accessing Virginia’s insurance assistance programs, that she brings to bear in educating low-income families on the resources that may be also available to them. She noted that when she first meets a client, “They see you sitting there and they don’t know what you are yourself going through. But I can relate to them.”

Relate to them indeed. She has helped thousands of children get insurance coverage. For her efforts, in 2011, she was honored by the Virginia Health Care Foundation with the prestigious Unsung Hero Child Health Champion award. It should be noted that, during the last fiscal year alone, Parker enrolled 683 children and 215 pregnant women in FAMIS programs. Parker comes to the Norfolk Health Department with considerable experience helping uninsured and disadvantaged children. She has worked with Head Start, The Planning Council and the Child Health Investment Partnership (CHIP) of South Hampton Roads. She said “I like it.” Then she paused, realizing that was not an adequate portrayal of the fondness she has for her work. She added, with infectious enthusiasm I might add, “I LOVE IT!”

Parker especially appreciates the FAMIS programs and what they do to help children get important health insurance coverage. “I carry FAMIS materials around in the trunk of my car,” she said. “It’s loaded! If somebody needs help, I got to go” to be there for them.

The FAMIS programs provide health coverage for children up to age 19. There are income requirements that must be met, but the list of covered services is extensive and includes: doctor visits, dental care, routine well-baby and well-child checkups, emergency care, hospital visits, vaccinations, lab tests and x-rays, prescription medicine, vision care, mental health care, etc.

For a child to be eligible for the FAMIS programs, they must 1) live in Virginia, 2) be under age 19, 3) be a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien, and 4) live in a family whose total household income meets FAMIS program guidelines, such as $49,815 for a family of 4. The co-pay for covered services can range from $2 to $5. Some covered services are free. Parker also noted that there is a FAMIS MOMS program for pregnant women. She has extensive experience with all of these and shared a story that demonstrates how effective she is at what she does.

A young girl attending a Norfolk elementary school was a severe asthmatic and was receiving FAMIS Plus, yet her mother had failed to renew that Medicaid coverage. Parker received an urgent call from a school nurse. The student no longer had an inhaler and was having a health crisis. Previously, an ambulance had been called to the school on five separate occasions. Parker created a team that included herself, the school nurse, and the young girl’s doctor and, together, they petitioned Medicaid to expedite renewal of the critical coverage the little girl so desperately needed. Parker stated her determination and resolve with great humility. “It’s more than a job for me,” she said. “It’s about having the compassion and the resources to help people.”

And why does she see FAMIS as so important? “When you have lived the life as I have, you appreciate that FAMIS allows you to have a family, to work, and be able to afford health insurance for your children.” She then paused for a moment and added a simple statement that offers profound commentary on why FAMIS even came into existence. She said, “I feel that a child that is covered with health insurance is a more healthy child.”

If you have questions or would like more information on the FAMIS programs and the eligibility requirements or other health insurance programs, call Denise Parker, Norfolk Department of Public Health at 757-285-7841 or Cover Virginia at (855) 242-8282.

By Terrance Afer-Anderson

Here’s an alarming statistic that should get your attention. Imagine 3 jumbo jet airliners, each carrying 438 passengers, crashing every day for a year, with no survivors. That’s how many people die from smoking-related illnesses each year, in the U.S. alone.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, reports that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable American disease and death, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year. That’s 1,300 deaths every day and 1 of every 5 annually. But the key word here is preventable.

Despite those stunning statistics, people still smoke and the impact among African-Americans is particularly devastating. The CDC reports that 29.8 percent of African-American adults smoke and that tobacco use is a major contributor to the 3 leading causes of death among Black Americans: heart disease, cancer and stroke. Further, of the 23,000 new cases of lung cancer expected in 2011, 70 percent or 16,000 new cases were expected to occur in African-Americans. Additionally, the lung cancer death rate among Black men was 23 percent higher than that of white men. It is also worth noting that an estimated 1.6 million African-Americans under age 18 will become regular smokers, including 500,000 who will eventually die from smoking.

And what of Virginia? The CDC notes that, in assessing the prevalence of smoking across the U.S., Virginia ranked 23rd among the states. Some 160,000 African-Americans in Virginia smoke. It is also worth noting that, while only 12.9 percent of Virginians with incomes of $50,000 or more smoke, 38.9 percent of residents with incomes less than $15,000 are current smokers. Also noteworthy is that the state’s non-Hispanic Blacks die from smoking-related heart disease, lung and bronchus cancer at greater rates than non-Hispanic whites.

Virginia’s smoking statistics are above national averages, but reflect the incidence of smoking across the country, to include exposure to secondhand smoke. Those rates too are considerably higher amongst African-Americans. Black American children and adults are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke than any other racial or ethnic group.

To illustrate, the CDC reports that, between 2011 and 2012, 67.9 percent of African-American children, aged 3 to 11, and 54.6 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years, were exposed to secondhand smoke, while 39.6 percent of Black adults aged 20 years and older were exposed. It should also be noted that there are some 7,000 chemicals found in cigarette smoke, most of them potentially hazardous and about 70 can cause cancer.

But the good news is that most African-American adult cigarette smokers, some 70 percent, genuinely want to quit. Many have tried. In fact, among current African-American daily smokers, aged 18 years and older, 74.1 percent report that they want to quit and 49.3 percent report having attempted to do so.

The benefits of quitting cannot be ignored. Here is a smoking cessation timeline that smokers, who want to quit, should find encouraging and a compelling incentive. After 20 minutes of stopping, the heart rate drops. After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to within normal limits. After 2 weeks to 3 months, circulation improves and lung function increases. After 1 to 9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease. After 1 year, excess risk of having coronary heart disease is cut in half. After 5 years, the stroke risk is reduced to that of a former smoker who stopped for 5 to 15 years. After 10 years, the lung cancer death rate is half that of a continuing smoker. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder and pancreas decreases. After 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker.

If you are a smoker who is motivated to stop, Boy … does the Virginia Department of Health have an opportunity for you! It is called Quit Now Virginia.

Quit Now Virginia is a smoking cessation and counseling program that has helped thousands of people throughout the state successfully stop smoking. And you don’t have to attend any meetings! All you need is your phone. If you also have access to a personal computer, it will enhance your experience.

Enrollment in Quit Now Virginia is free. They will help you create an easy-to-follow quit plan, help you decide what type, dose and duration of quitting aid works best for you and provide guidance on how to use it. You’ll be also assigned a personal Quit Coach® whom you can access with a simple phone call, whenever you need it. You’ll also have access to Web Coach® allowing you to not alone connect with an online community of more than 25,000 other active members, but also track your progress and watch insightful, helpful videos.

Additionally, if you have a cellphone, you can also participate in Text2Quit, a text message feature that allows you to connect with your Quit Coach®, interact with Web Coach®, provide guidance on using medications correctly, manage urges, and avoid relapses. You’ll also receive a free easy-to-use Quit Guide®, a workbook that will help you stick with your Quitting Plan.

If you smoke and want to avoid becoming an alarming statistic, check out Quit Now Virginia.

Call the Norfolk Department of Public Health at 757 683-8836 or call Quit Now Virginia at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). You can also visit them online at www.quitnow.net/virginia. You can do it!

By Glenn Ellis

(TriceEdneyWire.com)
Racism has historically had a significant, negative impact on the health care of Blacks and other people of color in the United States. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is truly the first time that African-Americans have, collectively, had significant access to health care. It is noteworthy that America’s first African-American president is chiefly responsible for this access.

Improved access to care; Medicaid expansion; prevention medicine; and lifting of barriers for pre-existing conditions, are all aspects of the ACA that have been of great benefit to Blacks. But there is a thick air of uncertainty on the horizon.

Next week, Donald John Trump will become the 45th president of the United States.

It is unclear how quickly, or when, Trump’s vow to repeal and replace Obamacare will play out. But make no mistake, just like the adage, “when white folks catch a cold, Black folks get pneumonia!,” a repeal of the ACA would disproportionately hurt Blacks.

Republicans in Congress have put out their plans: to repeal most of the ACA without replacing it; doubling the number of uninsured people – from roughly 29 million to 59 million – and leave the nation with an even higher uninsured rate than before the ACA.

Let me point out a few ways that Blacks have, specifically, benefitted from the ACA, what many now call „Obamacare.” Given the low incomes of uninsured Blacks, nearly all (94 percent) are in the income range to qualify for the Medicaid expansion or premium tax credits.

Nearly two thirds (62 percent) of uninsured Blacks have incomes at or below the Medicaid expansion limit, while an additional 31 percent are income-eligible for tax subsidies to help cover the cost of buying health insurance through the exchange marketplaces. Under the new law, insurance companies are banned from denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition, such as cancer and having been pregnant.

Importantly, for people living with HIV there also new protections in the law that make access to health coverage more equitable including the expansion of Medicaid and in the private market, prohibition on rate setting tied to health status, elimination of preexisting condition exclusions, and an end to lifetime and annual caps.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in March 2010 provided new opportunities for expanding health care access, prevention, and treatment services for millions of people in the U.S., including many people with, or at risk for, HIV.

Safety net hospitals play a critical role in the nation’s health care system by serving low-income, uninsured and medically and socially vulnerable patients regardless of their ability to pay. Also, in agreeing to lower payments, hospitals in the 31 states that expanded Medicaid under the law, have made up that revenue in part through the Medicaid expansion.

These places are critical to the health of Black communities, and in the poorest neighborhoods. They have been among the loudest voices against repeal of the health law, as they could lose billions if the 20 million people lose the insurance they gained under the law. This could bring about widespread layoffs, cuts in outpatient care and services for the mentally ill, and even hospital closings.

Under the ACA, these hospitals have received subsidies (or credits) to provide care based on a patients’ income levels. Should this change, community hospitals may have more difficulty weathering the storm of an increase in the number of uninsured.

Admittedly, there are some real problems with the ACA as we have come to know it; not the least being steady increases in premiums (midrange plans increased 22 percent nationally in 2016, with the average premium set to rise 25 percent in 2017); nearly 70 percent of all ACA plan provider networks are narrower than promised; and the high-deductibles and co-pays. Perhaps the most universal complaint is the “individual mandate”, that requires everyone in the United States to have insurance, or face a financial Republicans are dead set on repealing the Affordable Care Act. Congress will likely pass significant modifications to the Affordable Care Act this month, which will be signed by incoming President Trump.

The plans they have proposed so far would leave millions of people without insurance and make it harder for sicker, older Americans to access coverage. No version of a Republican plan would keep the Medicaid expansion as Obamacare envisions it.

Donald Trump’s presidency absolutely puts the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in jeopardy. A full repeal is unlikely, but major changes through the budget reconciliation process (which cannot be filibustered) are nearly certain.

But let me be clear; changes are needed in the ACA, but the idea of dismantling it remains a troubling prospect for Blacks.

Glenn Ellis, is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist. He is the author of Which Doctor? and Information is the Best Medicine. For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com.

By Dr. Gail C. Christopher
America’s Wire
Writers Group

WASHINGTON
Just five days before the inauguration of Donald Trump as the country’s 45th President, millions of Americans on January 15 will celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For many, memories of the civil rights icon revolve around his momentous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, calling for an end to racism and to the expansion of economic opportunities.

Dr. King’s brilliance – strategic leadership of the Civil Rights Movement to unparalleled courage and integrity – is often over shadowed by the speech that scholars hailed as the 20th century’s top public address in the U.S. Unfortunately, Dr. King’s dream of equality articulated in 1963 remains unfulfilled in many communities today – a reality affirming the continued structural inequities and bias spurring widespread disparities in social conditions and opportunities for people of color.

Think about Dr. King’s powerful vision. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” That’s the America many of us strive to create, but clearly, despite progress in some areas, we are still seeking to realize.

Furthermore, the vitriolic, divisive rhetoric and raw emotions raging throughout the past year pulled the scab off a persistent wound in the American psyche, bringing the issue of race front and center and exposing the divides in our society. What does the nation do about it? How do we move forward on a path toward racial equity that facilitates racial healing, dismantles structural racism and lifts vulnerable children on a path to success?

To-be-sure, America has made progress over the decades. Government and the courts enacted statutes and rulings ranging from Brown v. Board of Education to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Fair Housing Act of 1968 that outlawed public discrimination, while purportedly providing equal opportunities. Yet, these actions only addressed the effects of racism, not its core foundation. Time has demonstrated that government and courts can enact and uphold laws, but they don’t change hearts, minds and souls or address the root cause of racism.

Racism is rooted in the false belief in a human hierarchy, an antiquated taxonomy of the human family, which has fueled structural racism and conscious and unconscious bias throughout U.S. culture with a perception of inferiority or superiority based on race, physical characteristics or place of origin. Whites are placed at the top and all other racial groups in descending order. This absurd notion, which science has soundly discredited, was used to justify colonization and enslavement for centuries. And the false ideology fuels white supremacist movements and other overt expressions of racial and ethnic hatred and bigotry.

The United States has witnessed how the belief manifests in many ways. From coast to coast, communities experience disparities for people of color in health, education, employment and housing.

Furthermore, high profile police shootings involving people of color has fueled the perception that the criminal justice system is unfair and biased. In fact, a study by University of California, Davis anthropologist Cody Ross found “evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed Black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being Black, unarmed, and shot by police is about 3.49 times the probability of being white, unarmed, and shot by police on average.” 

It appears Dylann Roof, the convicted murderer of nine worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, was motivated by a belief that he was somehow superior to Blacks and others. Friends said Roof complained that “Blacks were taking over the world” and he vowed to start a race war

Dr. King understood that the belief in racial hierarchy created barriers to our country’s capacity to fulfill the promise of our democratic ideals. It is time for us to fully eliminate this hierarchy of human value and jettison the antiquated concept. Only then can all of our children be embraced not because of the color of their skin or other physical characteristics, but by their innate essence, their humanity.

Our country needs racial healing and a sustained effort to avert the racism that influences public and private systems, practices and policies.

The racial healing can move us toward one another in a spirit of wholeness and love. A transformative, positive change can come from this shift in our individual and collective consciousness and the resulting actions we take on behalf of ourselves, our children and future generations of our human family.

After decades of funding diverse communities to help improve the lives of vulnerable children, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) leadership recognizes the need for racial healing and eliminating racism, and replacing it with the affirmation of our equal and shared humanity. The hierarchy of human value is deeply embedded consciously, systematically, structurally and unconsciously by the people and systems adhering to it.

Removing it from our society will require a concerted effort over time. The Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) enterprise created by WKKF and a broad coalition of organizations from all sectors of society is working to end the belief and facilitate racial healing. TRHT is a community-driven vehicle for transformative change.

The TRHT approach examines how the belief system became embedded in our society, both its culture, and structures, and then works with communities to design and implement effective actions that will permanently uproot it. We are marshaling individual, local, public and private resources to dismantle systemic, structurally-based patterns of discrimination at the municipal, county, state, Tribal and federal levels.

At a recent summit, 570 people representing the 130 TRHT partner organizations issued a call to action to designate January 17, 2017 as the inaugural National Day of Racial Healing in America.

(Dr. Gail C. Christopher is a WKKF senior advisor and vice president for TRHT. To schedule print or broadcast interviews with Dr. Christopher, please contact Michael K. Frisby at mike@frisbyassociates.com or (202) 625-4328. The America’s Wire is an independent new service sponsored by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.)

By Dr. Patricia Maryland
NNPA Newswire
Guest Columnist

Few diseases cause as much pain and suffering as cancer. While survivors, activists, policymakers and healthcare professionals have been successful in raising awareness for some types of cancer, others are not as high profile. Among them: colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women combined in the U.S. Even less widely known is the fact that African-Americans have the highest incidence and mortality rates for colorectal cancer.

The disparities are impossible to ignore. African-Americans are about 25 percent more likely than Whites to be diagnosed with this form of cancer, and about 50 percent more likely to die from it. This is particularly troubling when considering that, in many cases, colorectal cancer can be prevented and is highly treatable, if it’s detected early, according to the American Cancer Society.

While we’re still working to understand why African-Americans are more susceptible to this type of cancer, one of the causes of the disparity in mortality is that minorities lag behind in screening for colorectal cancer. Researchers at the University of Texas have shown that African-Americans are less likely than White patients to receive a colonoscopy – the most common form of colorectal cancer screening – even when controlling for health insurance coverage and access to quality healthcare providers.

Both patients and providers bear some responsibility for the lower rates of colorectal cancer screening among African-Americans. On the patient side, African-Americans may not know that they are at a heightened risk of experiencing colorectal cancer earlier than other groups. In the African-American community, the share of colorectal cancer cases that occur before the generally recommended screening age of 50 is almost twice as high as among Whites. That’s why experts advise African-Americans to begin screening at age 45, five years earlier than other demographics.

But encouraging early and proactive screening is complicated. The invasiveness of the procedure, coupled with fears of pain, often causes African-American patients to rule it out as a preventive measure. What’s more, a lack of access to a physician they trust leads many members of the African-American community to delay this important procedure until it’s too late.
In addition, healthcare providers sometimes contribute to the low colorectal cancer screening rates among African-Americans. A recommendation from a physician has been shown to increase the likelihood that a patient will get a colonoscopy, but according to the American College of Gastroenterology, African-Americans are roughly one-third less likely than Whites to get such a recommendation.

These racial and ethnic disparities illustrate the need for a patient-centered, culturally competent approach to healthcare. As with many diseases, a broad range of factors determine a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer. Genetics, family history, personal medical history, diet, weight and physical activity all can have an impact.

That’s why healthcare providers must treat each patient in a way that takes into account all of the influences on their health. This includes their race and ethnicity, which in the case of colorectal cancer is a critical factor in determining whether a physician should recommend a colonoscopy, when a patient’s screening should start and concerns a doctor should address about the procedure.

Training healthcare professionals to understand the unique colorectal cancer risks of African-Americans, as well as the unease with which many view colonoscopies, is an important step toward increasing screening rates and catching more cases in their early stages. There’s also a need for a broader conversation about increased risk and the need for prompt, diligent colorectal cancer screening in the African-American community.

This disease is expected to claim the lives of over 7,000 African-Americans this year alone. It’s time to make sure the impact of colorectal cancer is just as widely known as that of other forms of cancer. And it’s time to replace misperceptions and fear by embracing a culture of health that puts awareness and prevention first.

Fortunately, incidence and mortality rates for colorectal cancer have been on the decline among both African-Americans and other racial groups across the board, but substantial gaps in health outcomes remain. Healthcare providers and the African-American community must work together to ensure that all patients have and take advantage of the opportunity to access a colonoscopy or other screening procedure that could save their life.

Patricia A. Maryland, Dr.PH, is the President of Healthcare Operations and Chief Operating Officer of Ascension Healthcare, a division of Ascension.

Randy Singleton
Community Affairs Correspondent
New Journal and Guide

NORFOLK
The “Fit Barbies” Dance Team of Portsmouth, VA entertained the crowd during the halftime of the Norfolk State v. Northern Kentucky basketball game Saturday (Dec. 3) at Echols Hall. The “Fit Barbies,” who range in age from 5-13, are sponsored by NSU alumnus Sunshine Swinson, who owns a fitness bar in the Churchland area of Portsmouth, VA. Swinson was featured in an article written by New Journal and Guide associate editor Roz Tyler a few months ago. The “Fit Barbies” were joined during their routine by the NSU Hot Ice Dancers.

The Spartans (2-7) fell to Northern Kentucky 61-72 in the non-conference game billed as “Health Awareness Night.” Three times in the second half, NSU rallied to pull with 2 points of the visiting Norsemen, after trailing by 17 points, but were unable to take the lead. NSU guard Jonathan Wade paced the Spartans with 21 points.

By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor
New Journal and Guide

The family bully is easy to spot in celebrated movies like Soul Food and The Godfather.

But, bullies are harder to spot in real-life. While you probably suspected  that Teri (Vanessa L. Williams), a successful lawyer, was the bully of the family long before she pulled a knife on her husband, Miles, in the 1997 movie, Soul Food.

And you were sure The Godfather character Sonny (James Caan) was a bully long before he viciously beat his brother-in-law Carlo (Gianni Russo) in a street brawl. The reason bullies are easy to spot in famous movies; but harder to spot in real-life, is because a bully rarely pulls a knife on a sibling, starts a street brawl with a brother-in-law, or orders a hit on his own brother, like Michael did to his baby brother, Fredo, in the 1974 movie, The Godfather II.

“Bullying allows the family to carry on unhealthy behavior patterns, and maintain the myth of normalcy, without having to look inward or take responsibility for a toxic environment,” said Glynis Sherwood, a registered and certified counselor in Canada.  “To change this you need to start standing up to the notion that you are at fault.”

This means bullies and victims share one trait. Neither the bully nor the victim wants to take responsibility for cleaning up the toxic environment that nourishes the bully. Soul Food illustrates the point. Notice how the toxic family environment did not change after Teri (Vanessa L. Williams) dropped her knife and embraced her timid sister Faith, who had slept with her husband, Miles.

The point is Vanessa Williams’ sister apologized; but she never apologized to her sister for browbeating and mistreating her for several decades. Still,  her sister Faith said, “I’m so sorry. I never meant to disrespect you.”

Meanwhile, in the final scene of  The Godfather II, an air of mystery hangs in the air as Michael sits alone by the lake at the family compound, staring across the expansive lake where his brother Fredo was shot and killed.

But, a toxic family environment is not a mystery.

Dr. Earnestine Duncan, chair of the department of psychology at Norfolk State University, said, “Bullies are everywhere. One of the most insidious and destructive forms of bullying is family bullying, because it’s often done in the name of love. Relatives and families often bully because of feelings of insecurity and/or jealously that may be long-standing.”

Duncan continued, “ Family members may remember an incident from childhood that let them feeling slighted and rejected. If there has not been an opportunity to process these feelings, they may harbor them and we will see them present themselves at family gatherings. Other times, family members who have not seen each other regularly may come to the gathering and sense that others are flaunting the “spoils of their success.”

Duncan said, “They may have a new job, a new car or have recently gotten engaged. This may leave another family member feeling inferior.  Bullying is often a behavioral way of venting incredible anger that’s festering as a result of having been mistreated. Relatives may feel that someone has mistreated them and they will displace the pain they suffer onto their relatives.”

Still, a toxic family environment is not a mystery. Like a manufacturing company slowly polluted drinking wells after it began dumping drums of toxic chemicals over 209 acres on a site about 50 miles north of Philadelphia in the 1970s. Or like BP and its partners made a series of cost-cutting and inadequate safety decisions that caused The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Relatives that pussyfoot around a toxic family environment, are as guilty of gross negligence and reckless conduct, as BP was when it pleaded guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter, two misdemeanors, and a felony count of lying to Congress in November 2012.

◆◆◆

To stop playing the victim, notice and change behavior that draws you into the victim role, Sherwood advised. “Stop trying to win the favor of abusive and uncaring family members, co-workers or friends.  Anyone who engages in this type of inappropriate behavior has personality problems. Don’t expect abusive family members to apologize or make amends.  They will likely blame you more if you attempt to hold them accountable.”

It is not a mystery that bullies thrive in a toxic environment, in other words. But learn to spot the red flags including negative, aggressive, controlling and coercive behavior, as well as excessive yelling, threats, intimidation, and physical force.

In other words, like the manufacturing company outside of Philadelphia deliberately dumped chemicals that ruined the community’s well water; or like BP’s deliberate decisions that damaged marine life, wildlife habitats, fishing and tourism, during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, bullies deliberately make decisions that create and sustain toxic family environments.

“In general, a bully tends to be an individual who at their core feels insecure and inferior,” the Rev. Christine A. Smith, senior pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Euclid, Ohio, said in a recent interview with the New Journal and Guide. ”To alleviate and mask their own internal struggles, they present themselves as confident, strong, powerful and as one to be feared.  Many families wrestle with the ‘bullying factor,’ ” said Smith, the author of the 2013 book, Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling:  Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors.

“Parents or siblings, cousins or other relatives, inevitably … wrestle significantly with their worth,” Smith said. “Because of generational baggage. . .families can unwittingly pass along attitudes and behaviors that wound the souls of its members, creating a ‘survival of the fittest’ atmosphere.”

To manage a potentially toxic holiday event, “pray for wisdom and discernment,” Smith said in a recent email. “Be in control of your atmosphere. Identify kind, but firm family members who can help guide, and if necessary re-direct conversations and encounters that appear to be going awry.”

Smith continued, “Give the bully family member a special task to perform.”  For example, invite them to help in the kitchen, help organize the table, or help choose music. But remain vigilant. “Keep them engaged with some level of control,” Smith said.  “This will help to affirm them and allow them to feel that they are managing something while showing their strengths … something bullies thirst for.”

In other words, a toxic family environment will not change if the bully is the role model. “Model acts of kindness, patience and love,” Smith continued.  “Remember, bullies are themselves broken people.”

◆◆◆

Popular movies such as Soul Food or The Godfather show the family bully never apologized, admitted wrongdoing, or changed.  If you are the bully’s real-life target, realize you can change. In plain terms, you are not obliged to feed, maintain, and nourish the  toxic environment that nourishes the bully.

Experts say instead of trying to maintain an aggressive, hostile, mean, and abusive environment, manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure because bullies wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions.

Bullies want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves, said Dr. Travis Bradberry,  co-author of, Emotional Intelligence 2.0. “Establish boundaries.” To clean up a toxic environment during the holiday season, squash negative self-talk.  Get some sleep. Use your support system. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.”

Duncan said from her office at Norfolk State University, there are several strategies that will sanitize a toxic environment. “Set boundaries ahead of time. This can help you feel more in control of a situation. Tell everyone ahead of time that you can only stay for two hours at a family party, or that instead of cooking the holiday ham for the tenth year in a row, this time you’ll bring a salad.”

Two more tips for managing a toxic family environment. “Pay attention to your own needs and desires – they’re absolutely just as important as everyone else’s,” Duncan said. “When you leave, ( a bullying family event during the holidays), leave it all behind you.”

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