By Tashi McQueen
AFRO Political Writer

Experts have long considered how racial disparities can play a part in the success or failure of achieving your best self.  While Black people, like many Americans, make resolutions at the top of the year to address emotional, mental and physical health– they must also take into account the social determinants of health that could be working for or against them. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “social determinants of health (SDOH) are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers heart disease, cancer and COVID-19 the biggest threats to African-American lives. Heart disease refers to various heart conditions, including coronary artery disease and enlarged heart muscles. 

“Smoking is a risk factor, but we also find that our diet lead to complications from heart disease,” Delmonte Jefferson, executive director of the Center for Black Health and Equity told the AFRO. “The processed foods that we’re eating, doing our grocery shopping at Dollar General and places like that is – causing us to die prematurely.”

Executive Director Delmonte Jefferson
Photo Courtesy of Delmonte Jefferson/LinkedIn

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, in 2019, Black Americans were 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic White Americans.

Jefferson acknowledged that things like food deserts – areas where quality fresh food is difficult to find– can make creating a better diet challenging but offered a path forward.

“You have to learn how to educate and advocate to politicians,” said Jefferson. “There’s only so much you can do in terms of growing your own food or having – community gardens, but you can get those folks who are responsible for making the law, to make a law that benefits you and your community.”

Jefferson said Black people should keep track of their blood sugar and blood pressure levels and take action when the numbers are not good.

“We need to be vigilant about addressing and keeping our within normal and safe levels,” said Jefferson. “When we have to get our legs amputated or have a stroke from high blood pressure, it’s too late to start doing something about the issue.”

Though the original height of COVID-19 has subsided, Jefferson said it’s still a real concern for Black Americans.

“As long as COVID-19 is a concern for America, it is a concern for Black people,” said Jefferson. “We have to stay vigilant, vaccinated, wear our masks and be prepared.”

At least 73,462 Black lives have been lost due to COVID-19 through March 2021, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The Council on Black Health shared how they’ve worked since 2002 to create better access to health in the Black community.

“Our members and partner organizations advance Black health equity through research, policies and practices designed to dismantle the structural racism and oppression that form the very foundation of – healthcare in America today,” said Melicia Whitt-Glover, executive director of Council on Black Health.

Photo Courtesy of Melicia Whitt-Glover

“In 2021, we created the Black Health Bill of Rights – a collective action for Black health equity and a recognition of the dignity and humanity of all Black people. Dozens of prominent organizations have already endorsed this framework. We invite others to visit our website and add their names to the list.”

The National Black Leadership Commission on Health and the California Black Health Network are two other organizations advocating for Black Americans and educating policymakers to ensure equitable access to healthier living.