Ending black health disparities is a year-round priority for USC experts

The national theme for Black History Month 2022, “Black Health and Wellness,” is a topic USC scholars discuss year-round. Some of the nation’s top public health and medical organizations have declared racism itself a public health crisis, drawing attention to the harmful effects of racial discrimination on health.

Experts from across the university have placed racism at the center of their work in multiple contexts: maternal, fetal, and infant mortality; homelessness; poverty; Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

The evidence that USC researchers have uncovered demonstrating the links between racism and health problems underscores that biases in American communities, politics, and economic systems seriously harm Black Americans.

For example, Tyan Parker Dominguezclinical professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, studies racial disparities in adverse birth outcomes and infant mortality.

“Of all major racial and ethnic groups in the country, African American women are more likely to give birth too early or too small, to bury them before their first birthday, and to die in pregnancy, during childbirth, or in childbirth. ‘year postpartum,’ Parker says Dominguez.

“African American women aren’t just ‘hardwired’ that way. On the contrary, research on the social determinants of health indicates that the context of our lives matters. Long-standing inequalities in health are the physical consequence of pervasive and persistent social inequalities.

Inequalities are widespread, the statistics show it. But the ill effects of racism are manifesting themselves on the streets of Los Angeles. The high rate of homelessness among people of color is evidence of “residential segregation” in Ricky Blumentalthe research.

Blacks make up about 13% of the US population, but they make up 39% of the homeless and about half of all homeless families with children.

“The disproportionate impact of homelessness on African Americans is due to systematic racism that excludes our populations from educational, employment, and housing opportunities. This has been the case historically, and it continues to this day” said Bluthenthal, associate dean for social justice and professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and the Prevention Research Institute at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

“We have a problem with our political economy, where big business is cutting wages to keep them as low as possible,” he said. “We’re generating more homeless people than we can build and it’s because of these systems: structural racism, a political economy that keeps wages low and housing costs high in places like Los Angeles.”

Health Disparities: Why Representation Matters in Alzheimer’s Research

Doris Molina-Henryassistant professor of neurology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, aims to help solve one of the biggest health problems facing the world today – Alzheimer’s disease.

“Black adults in the United States are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s disease, and this comes with very limited representation in clinical trials. [less than 5%] – a critical pathway for drug testing and approval,” said Molina-Henry, whose work at USC’s Alzheimer’s Institute for Therapeutic Research in San Diego focuses on recruiting participants to clinical trials.

“This can have unfortunate implications for members of the black community who are twice as at risk, less likely to be diagnosed, and bear a significant portion of the financial and care burden. Black participation in Alzheimer’s disease research that aims to treat, slow or prevent the disease is imperative for the preservation of the unique cultural richness of the Black community.

Inspiration nestled in the midst of difficulties

Despite these challenges, Parker Dominguez finds inspiration in a concept called “Sojourner’s Syndrome”. The concept, named in honor of Sojourner Truth, the famous 19th century former slave turned evangelist, abolitionist and activist, “refers to the constellation of class, race and gender oppression that black women experience, which which intensifies their risk of adverse health effects.

“Sojourner’s Syndrome also recognizes the tremendous resilience of Black women who historically have had to come out of nowhere, to continue to be the heart and soul of their families and essential leaders in their communities,” said Parker Dominguez. .

More stories on: Black History Month, Healthcare, Public Health, Race & Ethnicity

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