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Blacks Deserve to Live

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Blacks in San Bernardino County deserve to live as long as Whites, Hispanics and Asians, but Blacks die younger than any other race. The life expectancy of an African-American male in San Bernardino County is 56.3 years while his White counterpoint lives to be 69.4 years old.

Black women don’t live much longer with an age expectancy of 62.1 years compared to 75.8 years for White women according to the San Bernardino County Department of Health.

You may think that Blacks would live longer, as our income increases but this is not true. So, why do Blacks die thirteen years younger than Whites? Some say it is because of the “Black diet”, lack of exercise, and increased participation in risky sexual behavior.

Some say it is because Blacks don’t care, they are lazy and uneducated. Some say it is because Blacks don’t have access to healthcare facilities or quality healthcare providers.

The facts are that Blacks are dying of HIV/AIDS, high-blood pressure, prostate cancer, and breast cancer at a rate one-and-a-half to six-times the rate of other ethnicities, and access to healthcare is a serious problem. Nationally inadequate access to healthcare for minorities, especially Blacks is a serious issue; it crosses socioeconomic strata and is an expanding healthcare crisis with no impending resolve. Blacks are dying daily from chronic diseases that are preventable.

The African-American Health Initiative (AAHI) has accepted the challenge to do something about this problem of poor access to quality healthcare for Blacks in San Bernardino County. We are committed to working with the Black communities to find real solutions to fixing the gaps that exist in providing quality care. We must decrease the deaths, disabilities and poor quality of life for minorities in this County.

The National Cancer Institute reports that Black men in America have the highest death rate from prostate cancer, higher than any other male group in the world. Yet, 40% of Black men in a recent Loma Linda University study had not been given a prostate cancer screening and 71.4% reported the doctor had not discussed the benefits of screening or early detection. What are the real solutions to this mammoth problem?

The AAHI is positively motivated to work with Black communities in this County because we are healthcare workers and community leaders who have dedicated ourselves to the betterment of our population. To that end, we have secured a two-year $268,620 grant from The California Endowment to fund an in-depth health-planning project to study healthcare access problems in San Bernardino County.

In this effort we will identify all current prevention and treatment services, programs and providers who deliver any type of care in the County related to heart disease, high-blood pressure, breast/prostate cancers, and HIV/AIDS.

We will also interview at least 300 African-American residents for their opinions of San Bernardino County’s healthcare system and how we can improve it, identify best practices and programs that will help decrease African-American health problems, create a comprehensive strategic plan based on the results of our the findings, and then have public forums for community comments on the comprehensive plan before the final report is completed.

The final report will contain community recommendations to improve preventive and treatment services provided by hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, the San Bernardino County Department of Health and other healthcare providers.

Our task is to use all available resources to find the real reasons we die early and the best solutions to the problem. To make this effort work we need the cooperation of everyone in San Bernardino County. Please attend our community meetings or call our office and tell us how you would improve the healthcare system in our County. If you know of a program or service that works, please let us know so that we can contact them and find how they make things work.

Together we can improve the healthcare system for the Black population in San Bernardino County, and that will lower healthcare costs and make life better for everyone.

Please call me at (909) 825-6526, extension 107, to join in this important effort.

V. Diane Woods is a M.S.N, R.N. and Health Planning Project Coordinator for the African-American Health Initiative.

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