Toxins in the Hood

By: Cassandra Bazile

When we hear of racial injustice, we tend to think of police brutality or the criminal justice system’s war against minorities; but what about the air and water we consume? “Environmental racism”, a term coined in the 1980s, plagues the United States as many illegal dumps, chemical plants and sewage treatment plants reside in the backyards of people of color and the poor. Polices and practices are implemented to discriminate against people based on race and social class by forcing them live in areas near facilities that are major causes of pollution. These waste facilities contain toxins and carcinogens such as lead, cobalt and Styrene. People who live in these areas are inhaling and consuming toxins that can cause generational defects. Research has shown that middle class African Americans who make between $50,000-60,000 a year are more likely to live in a polluted neighborhood than white Americans who make just $10,000 a year.  Don’t believe me? Let’s talk about some cases of environmental racism.

Along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge there are over 150 industrial factories that produce a quarter of the nation’s petrochemicals. The 85-mile stretch, infamously known as “Cancer Alley”, has been known for the unusual cases of cancer and mysterious illness that happen in its vicinity. How do these chemicals ultimately lead to cancer?  Well, it first started with the residents awaking to mysterious ash on their cars every morning. The ash soon caused putrid smells which, eventually, the residents became accustomed to. After a while the residents became used to the pollution, unaware of their diminishing health.

With the decline of industries such coal mining and petroleum, many white Americans suffer from environmental bias as well. The decline of industry also brought the decline of the livelihood of those that depended on those jobs.

Flint, Michigan recently made headlines for a water crisis in which Flint changed its water source from Lake Hurton to Flint River, which had major lead contamination. Exposure to lead causes developmental problems in children including impaired cognition, delayed puberty and a variety of behavioral problems. Between 6,000 and 12,000 children where exposed to lead and are now haunted by  life-long impending health problems. Coverage of this crisis raised the debate of whether the race and social status of Flint’s residents had to do with this situation.

Flint was once an industrial powerhouse and housed General Motors’ largest plant. The plant downsized in the 1980s, taking the jobs from residents and negatively impacting the livelihood of the city. Many of Flint’s residents live below the national poverty line and over 40% are African American. The state’s actions following the exposure of the contaminated water being pumped into Flint were questionable to say the least, leaving questions about whether the situation’s handling had to do with the racial and socioeconomic demographics of Flint.

So what now?

Laws to protect Americans against environmental bias have long existed. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed a bill to ensure the goal of achieving environmental protection for all communities.  It has been shown that areas of impoverished people have not reaped the benefits since the bill was never enforced. Over 20 years later, we are still battling to enforce these laws in areas where the people aren’t heard. The environmental protection agency (EPA) has a department that is specifically concerned with civil rights and in its 22-year history the office has not found a case of discrimination. Surprised?Environmental racism doesn’t just affect the generation of people living there. Environmental toxins can cause generational damage. The cycle of bias when it comes to the environment in which we are born and raised, or where we play, live, and work perpetuates the oppression of minorities and low-income communities.

Cassandra Bazile is a Graduate Student at the University of Miami, currently pursing a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology. She graduated from Morgan State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and then moved to Boston where she worked at MIT for 3 years. Cassandra has a deep rooted love for science and research. Her Interest Include Women’s Health, Fitness, and Community Outreach.  

Bibliography

1. Huffington Post, (2016) “EPA to Weaken Civil Rights Protections Under Obama”. New York, New York.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/keith-rushing/epa-to-weaken-civil-right_b_9069362.html

2. The New York Times. (2016) “A Question of Environmental Racism in Flint”. NEW YORK, NEW YORK. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/22/us/a-question-of-environmental-racism-in-flint.html?_r=0

3. Pollution Issues. “Cancer Alley, Louisiana”.  http://www.pollutionissues.com/Br-Co/Cancer-Alley-Louisiana.html

4. Lee, Trymaine. MSNBC. .(2014) “Cance Alley: Big Industry, Big Problems”. http://www.msnbc.com/interactives/geography-of-poverty/se.html

5. (2013) “Mapping the Cancer Corridor along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast”. https://dabrownstein.com/category/cancer-alley/

Internet Resources

1.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_racism

2.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_Alley

3.“Environmental Racism explained”. Online Video clip. Youtube, 29, Jan 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toxins in the Hood

Black & White: Death & Dying by Race & Ethnicity

Is health black and white?

Before you answer… Did you know that there are differences in death rates based on race? On average, at birth a white person may expect to live 5 years longer than a black person in the United States. This gap grows to a 10 year difference when comparing life expectancy of white women (81 years) to black men (71 years) [1, 2].

Why is this the case?

Well for starters, the leading causes of death differ down both race/ethnicity and gender lines. For instance, homicide makes the list as one of the top five killers of black men, but does not make the list for white men (nor either group of women). Diabetes makes the list as one of the top five killers of black women, but does not make the list for white women (nor either group of men) [3]. However, when comparing death rates between blacks and whites for the same disease, blacks still tend to have worse health outcomes. In fact, according to 2012 data, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Heath states “the death rate for African Americans was generally higher than Whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and homicide” [4].

But really, why is this the case?

It comes down to what researchers refer to as ‘social determinants of health’. This term translates into how where you live, work, and play shapes your health. Moreover, these differences may in part be explained by health inequity, “difference or disparity in health outcomes that is systematic, avoidable, and unjust” [5]. For instance, it is common knowledge that many black people in America are living in poverty. This fact is tied to societal oppression dating back to slavery. Poverty manifests in predominately black neighborhoods, leading to limited access to resources such as healthy food, safe environments for physical activity, and quality health care services. As declared by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” BUT, poverty does not explain it all. Even when a 2015 study compared breast cancer survival rates between low socioeconomic status white women with high socioeconomic status black women, black women still suffered from worse health outcomes [6]. Thus, factors beyond poverty, such as racial discrimination (e.g. subconscious differences in treatment by health care professionals) must be considered.

What can be done?

First and foremost, health education and health inequity awareness must become common knowledge. Children and adults, men and women, black and white must all understand what constitutes health, so that health is not only seen as the physical absence of a pathogen, but more holistic and inclusive of mental, emotional, environmental, and social health. Professionals and patients must work together to actively address gaps in sociocultural competence/humility through being open and honest with each other. Particularly, physicians have a responsibility to treat “humanity as [their] patients” [7]. Thus, systematic discrimination must be deconstructed for the assurance of ‘justice for all’. While health policy should be at the forefront of the conversation to combat these issues of social justice, communities must also consider their power in determining their destiny. Black communities, as they have done in the past, must begin to gather, organize, and mobilize to persevere.

Now, with all of this in mind… you tell me, how long should health continue to be black and white?

Rhoda Moise is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health and a passion for health promotion. She has been trained to approach health from an interdisciplinary perspective from proteins to people. Through her doctoral studies as a PhD student at The University of Miami, she intends to combat health disparities by conducting research which provides empirical evidence that demands alteration in standing policy.

References

1 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/mortality_tables.htm

2 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/LEWK3_2009.pdf

3 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/mortality_tables.htm#lcod

4 http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=3&lvlid=61

5 http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/socialdeterminants/definitions.html

6 Keegan, T. H., Kurian, A. W., Gali, K., Tao, L., Lichtensztajn, D. Y., Hershman, D. L., … & Gomez, S. L. (2015). Racial/ethnic and socioeconomic differences in short-term breast cancer survival among women in an integrated health system. American journal of public health, 105(5), 938-946.

7 http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/declaration-professional-responsibility.page

Black & White: Death & Dying by Race & Ethnicity

Sometimes It Is Just Black & White | The Color Wheel

Let’s talk straight no chaser! When it comes to being a black woman in America a mental illness is the last thing that you would also like to have associated with your name. Take myself for instance, I have dealt with Depression for most of my life and it wasn’t until I was 27 years old that I realized how much I needed help. I never thought about telling anyone in my family about my struggles or even my experiences. So when I decided to create a mental health blog showcasing my life, I knew it was going to be seen as an attention seeking affair. Little did I know how much therapy this blog was going to be not only for me, but for other people who looked like me.

In the mental health community there are very few African Americans. From support groups, rallies, speaking engagements and even research centers we are lacking representation. From my experience alone I have always been the only black person and black woman in many support groups, I have never encountered a black mental health professional and I have never met someone who was open and as honest as I am about their illness. Until recently, I thought that it didn’t even matter.

When I began talking to young, black girls about their daily lives, I was shocked to hear that they were open and honest about their emotions, but felt like no one wanted to listen to them. How is that? How can it be that way when you are born to a mother and father? Shouldn’t they want to listen? Aren’t they asking fact finding questions? How are we not showing compassion to our own children?

Let’s get to the facts…

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a real illness. You can get PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event, such as a war, hurricane, sexual assault, physical abuse, or a bad accident. Although you are no longer in danger, PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid. It affects you and the people around you.

Consumers with PTSD can experience a range of emotions such as flashbacks, hallucinations, “going blank”, detachment from events and others, trouble sleeping, nervousness, or being over aware. PTSD can also be accompanied by other mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar and schizophrenia.

PTSD does not only effect one age group or race; however, it is proven to be more prevalent in “urban communities”, veterans and patients with other mental disorders. Anyone who has faced a traumatic event like sexual assault, combat, life threatening events  or witnessed others, survivors of natural disasters, unexpected loss of someone or illness that caused severe pain or procedures can develop PTSD”(1).

With adequate treatment including psychotherapy, medications and support from family and friends, PTSD can be managed successfully. However, if left untreated, PTSD can last for months and even years depending on the severity.

In the summer of 2005, I was diagnosed with three different mental illnesses (yes it’s possible). The one I had always heard of was PTSD. Growing up I heard the term being used for survivors of rape, bank robberies and really bad car accidents. The term ” I put it in the back of my mind” was always used to describe what PTSD was and how it can come back to haunt you in the future.

I didn’t even feel like I had been involved in something traumatic enough to be considered a mental illness. So when I got the results from my evaluation, I was shocked. I never told the doctors that I was molested, I used to get bullied and threatened at school or I was in an abusive relationship in high school. So how could they have known about the things I locked away?

As I began thinking about it, I had never been asked how I was feeling or what I was feeling when I was at home. It wasn’t a topic of discussion at the dinner table. It wasn’t even a concern anywhere in my home. And I am sure in any black home we have all heard the ” Shut up. I don’t want to hear anything you have to say. Why are you crying?” Those negative statements which some of us have heard, mold us and begin to create other issues.

If a child has gone through something traumatic like maybe being bullied or threatened at school and has not had an outlet to voice their feelings and experience PTSD can begin to develop. So if you can’t feel safe and supported at home, then where else can you feel comfortable when there is no one that looks like you and shares your experiences in your Insurance Coverage Network?

We don’t see black health advocates on television, we don’t even see black people in medication ads or television shows (other than Andre on Empire). It’s as if black people are Immune to mental illness. The characters are superhuman and forever fearless. They don’t have any duality or vulnerability. When I think about segregation and slavery I always think about the long term psychological effects that it had and is still having on black people. With the current racial situations on the rise, PTSD still has a presence in our community.

I don’t think television is the key to representation or the hear all see all as well. If we don’t have prominent medical professionals, qualified programs and black advocates in our communities, we will continue to sweep mental illness under the rug. Yes it is a black or white thing because let’s be real we all choose what’s comfortable for us. And if you feel as though someone will understand your experience, then you would think they will understand what kind of treatment you need.

My question is who will step up?

Lindsay Anderson is the Editor-In-Chief and Founder of ConsciouslyCoping.org, a Mental Wellness social media site that primarily focuses on educating minorities, underprivileged and lower income based families on healthy approaches of managing Mental Illnesses.

(1) https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/posttraumaticstressdisorder.html

Sometimes It Is Just Black & White | The Color Wheel

HN Doctor’s Corner: Eat for Your Eyesight

Family

If I were to ask “what’s the best thing to eat for the health of your eyes?” Most would respond “carrots!” And if we look at recent studies, you wouldn’t be wrong to name a source of beta carotene. However, there are so many other nutritional sources that are beneficial to overall health that also benefit your eyes.  With a variety of sources, through food and supplementation, you can easily assure you’re getting the recommended daily intake.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin
What did I just read!?!  Lutein and Zeaxanthin are nutrients that are found in leafy green veggies.  They are powerful antioxidants and act as filters to harmful radiation.  They are vital for the health of the macula, the part of the eye responsible for your central and sharpest vision.  Furthermore, these nutrients are also protective against oxidative stress and tissue damage. While there is no recommended daily intake, studies have shown the amount that is beneficial to the eyes is 10mg of Lutein and 2mg Zeaxanthin daily.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Vitamin C
Every cell in your body depends on this super vitamin for regular function, including cells in your cardiovascular, digestive, and ocular systems.  The FDA has established the dietary reference intake, or DRI, as 90mg/day for men and 75mg/day for women. Studies recommend 300-500mg daily in combination with other antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals for maximum benefit against certain ocular diseases.  Switch up your sources from your daily glass of OJ with the following recommendations!
Vitamin C

Vitamin E
Another essential antioxidant, vitamin E protects cells and prevents breakdown of tissues.  Deficiencies in vitamin E are known to be associated with nerve damage, muscle weakness, poor coordination, and anemia.  The FDA’s DRI is 22 IU/day, regardless of gender.  To benefit the eyes, 400 IU daily in combination with other antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals is recommended.  Of note, the amount of vitamin E should be increased if one’s diet is particularly low in fat.

Vitamin E

Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 – DHA and EPA
If I had to choose a favorite nutrient, it would definitely be omega-3 fatty acids.  They are essential for every system in the body and in regulating inflammation.  Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for cells to obtain nutrition and rid themselves of waste. Deficiencies can lead to visual impairment and dryness of the eyes and skin.  The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 0.5-1.0g/day of DHA and EPA. For those who do not consume fish or meat, microalgae is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
EPA DHA

Many systemic and ocular diseases are “nutrition responsive disorders,” meaning many ailments can be reversed with proper diet and activity.  While it’s well established that the average American falls far short of consuming the recommended amount of nutrients daily, it is crucial for overall health and, of course, ocular health!


CDC: Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight
Diet & Nutrition: Adding Powerful Antioxidants to Your Diet can Improve Your Eye Health
http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition?sso=y
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Fish-and-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids_UCM_303248_Article.jsp
Majority of Americans Not Meeting Recommendations For Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2009/r090929.htm
National Eye Institute: The AREDS Formulation and Age-Related Macular Degeneration:
https://nei.nih.gov/amd/summary

HN Doctor’s Corner: Eat for Your Eyesight

LoveHER: The Other Silent Killer of Black Women—Hepatitis C

Delicately purposed for the nation’s Black women; brown girls, black girls; light-skinned, brown-skinned, and dark-skinned:

“It is clear that information about Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) has not effectively reached the majority of African Americans in this country. According to a public awareness poll conducted by the American Liver Foundation, African Americans, when compared to the general public,  are not as aware of the risk factors or symptoms of hepatitis C. Furthermore, a media analysis discovered African American press, a trusted resource which plays a critical role in informing the African American community, features minimal coverage on hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C, the most common blood-borne infection worldwide, is silently killing us, Black women. Like other viruses such as HIV/AIDS, many who are infected are unaware thus, increasing the risk of developing severe liver disease and transmitting the virus to others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of the virus is 3 percent among African Americans, compared to 1.5 percent in the general population.

Within the African American community, chronic liver disease, which is often hepatitis C-related, is a leading cause of death among people between the ages of 45 and 64. About 9.4 percent of African Americans in their 40s are or have been infected with chronic hepatitis C – compared to only 3.8 percent of Caucasians.

In order to raise awareness, connect those affected with treatment, prevent new infections and defeat this silent killer once and for all, we must empower ourselves. As black women, we must make it an effort to get hepatitis C screenings and more importantly know our status.

Signed,

EnviableZsanai

P.S. Click here to take a short Hepatitis C risk assessment!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). The ABCs of Viral Hepatitis. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/ABC-Viral-Hepatitis.pdf

Franciscus, A. (n.d.). African Americans and Hepatitis C. Retrieved from http://hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/factsheets_pdf/African_Americans.pdf

Hepatitis Foundation International. (n.d.). HEPATITIS C: AN EPIDEMIC WITHIN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY. Retrieved from http://www.hepfi.org/pdfs/Stakeholders/HFI_African_American_HCV_Disparities.pdf

LoveHER: The Other Silent Killer of Black Women—Hepatitis C

LoveHER: King v. Burwell, the Affordable Care Act & Black Women–What’s the Connection?

Delicately purposed for the nation’s Black women; brown girls, black girls; light-skinned, brown-skinned, and dark-skinned:

On June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in King v. Burwell that premium tax credits can be issued to consumers who purchase health coverage in the federally facilitated marketplace (FFM). King v. Burwell is a significant factor in the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because it ensures that millions of Americans will have access to affordable health coverage. Furthermore, because women comprise a majority of FFM enrollees, the availability of premium tax credits under the ACA is crucial.

Currently, black women still suffer disproportionately from chronic illnesses and infectious diseases. The ACA has afforded women more rights ensuring fair treatment from insurers and guaranteeing access to coverage that offers a comprehensive set of benefits, including maternity care and other key women’s health services for those who enroll in a marketplace plan. In addition to the benefits for women, the ACA has also put policies in place which allow dependents to remain on their parent’s health insurance until they turn twenty-six years old.

Benefits of the ACA & King v. Burwell for Black Women:

1. Guaranteed access to coverage through the marketplace plans

2. Screenings and counseling for Pregnancy-related conditions such as anemia and gestational diabetes; Breast and cervical cancers; Sexually transmitted infections; and Domestic and interpersonal violence

3. Well-woman visits

4. Contraception

5. Breastfeeding supplies, counseling and support

6. Tobacco use intervention

7. Osteoporosis screenings

These benefits truly provide women with greater flexibility, economic security, independence, and protection in health and wellness. I encourage my fellow Black women to take full advantage of the benefits being offered whether it is through premiums in the marketplace or private insurers. Every woman especially Black women has the right to a healthy, productive, and even longer life!

Signed,

EnviableZsanai

P.S. If you are uninsured visit www.healthcare.gov, you still have time for 2015 health coverage!

Important dates for 2016 enrollment:

November 1, 2015 – Open enrollment starts for 2016 Marketplace plans

January 1, 2016 – First date 2016 coverage can start

January 31, 2016 – 2016 Open Enrollment ends

HealthCare.gov. (n.d.). 2016 Open Enrollment dates | HealthCare.gov. Retrieved July 2015, from https://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace-deadlines/2016/

National Partnership for Women & Families. (2015, January). King v. Burwell: Affordable Coverage for Women at Stake. Retrieved from http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/health-care/king-v-burwell-affordable-coverage-for-women-at-stake.pdf

LoveHER: King v. Burwell, the Affordable Care Act & Black Women–What’s the Connection?

LoveHER: Take the Test, Take Control

Delicately purposed for the nation’s Black women; brown girls, black girls; light-skinned, brown-skinned, and dark-skinned:

There are so many things happening in the world that demand our attention, but HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) should have our undivided attention every day.  HIV/AIDS is relentlessly infecting and taking the lives of our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, nieces, and friends.

Continue reading “LoveHER: Take the Test, Take Control”

LoveHER: Take the Test, Take Control