Monday, October 26, 2020

Racism and Our Families’ Health: Connecting the Dots Webinar Held in June


Milta Vega Cardona gave a presentation, "Health Disparities as Symptoms of Structural Racism."

In the summer, members of the Bronx Health REACH Faith Based workgroup hosted a two part webinar, "Racism and Our Families' Health: Connecting the Dots." The two part webinar featured experts on undoing racism and advancing health equity. The goals of the webinar were to create  awareness of the role of racism in health outcomes, facilitate a community conversation on race and racism, and provide resources for those wanting to address racism and health inequities.

Speakers for the first session included: Charmaine Ruddock, BHR Project Director, Pastor John Udo-Okon, from Word of Life International, Dr. Uche Blackstock, Founder/CEO of Advancing Health Equity, and Milta Vega Cardona from The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.

Charmaine provided a background on how Bronx Health REACH was formed, our mission and the history of the Bronx Health REACH Coalition. She also spoke about #Not62 - The Campaign for a Healthy Bronx! Pastor John Udo-Okon not only provided information on the important work that his church, Word of Life International is doing by feeding the community, but his experience being a Black man in America. "When I arrived in the U.S. years ago I visited a store in Dallas. The staff would follow me around the store. I asked my wife, 'Why is the staff doing this?' She said the staff was following me because I was a Black man. She spoke to them and told them we are not here to steal, and asked them to stop following us. That experience made me realize that being Black [in America] is a liability, and the racism we face every day is a challenge."

Dr. Uché Blackstock's presentation provided background on the social determinants of health, and the impact on people of color. "Inequities exist because of differences in the quality of care, access to healthcare, and differences in opportunities. Policies, economic systems, and social hierarchies impact health outcomes." She also made the connection between the devastation that COVID-19 has brought upon Black and Latino communities. "Housing segregation and income inequality have led to overcrowding and increased transmission of COVID-19, and the pandemic has unveiled underlying inequities that contribute to racial and ethnic health disparities." Dr. Blackstock offered some short-term strategies to overcome COVID-19 such as targeted testing, contact tracing and hazard pay and personal protection equipment for essential workers.

Milta Vega Cardona from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond made a presentation, "Health Disparities as Symptoms of Structural Racism" focusing on the root causes of health disparities. Milta provided key facts on health and health care by race and ethnicity. She also asked, "If health disparities are a symptom, what is the underlying cause?" She covered topics such as implicit or cognitive bias, structural and social racism. "Many of these inequities are man-made situations. If we created them, we can undo them," said Milta.

Speaking at the second session was Immaculada Moronta from Bronx Health REACH, Badr Fuad from the United States Census, Adolfo Abreu and Shen'naque Sean Butler from the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, and Milta Vega Cardona from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. Immaculada spoke about the significance and influence faith based organizations have, not only on their members, but on the community as well. "Houses of worship serve as a powerful medium for social, economic and political change. They continue to be key players in improving the health and well-being of their members and the community that have been historically underserved."

Badr Fuad spoke about the importance of completing your census form. "Responding to the census is important to ensure an accurate count of community members, so that adequate funding can be brought into communities. If people do not respond to the Census, we will not have the funding we deserve for another ten years. We want to make sure all are counted in the 2020 census so we have funding for better schools, hospitals and many other services that we are currently missing in the Bronx."

Adolfo Abreu and Shen'naque Sean Butler gave an overview of the work the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) has been doing. "NWBCCC advocates for safe, affordable and energy efficient housing, healthy communities with green space, high-quality public schools, community-led economic development, living wages, green jobs, and immigrant rights. We provide Social Determinants of Health training, where community members learn the roles and responsibilities of the health system, communities, and governments in addressing the social determinants of health, and identify local resources to address these challenges," says Adodlfo.

Milta Vega Cardona from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond continued from the previous session with her presentation, "Race/Racism, Implicit Bias: the Road Towards Structural Racism." In this presentation Milta spoke about the types of racism, the dynamics of implicit bias and the principles for doing anti-racist work. "Everyone has implicit bias which needs to be overcome to address systemic racism. It is automatic, involuntarily activated, and below our consciousness. Anti-racism entails knowing and sharing history and culture, using a common language, practicing accountability, developing leadership, understanding the manifestations of our socialization, and valuing our humanity and the humanity of others."

You can view Part I  and Part II  of the webinar.

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