By: Dominique Boyette
Black History Month is still here and we are continuing to highlight and celebrate our brilliant innovators. So much of our ancestral knowledge cultivated and developed what would become modern medicine, it is no surprise Black people have made some of the most significant contributions to the health and wellness industry.
Here are a few Black men & women that changed the landscape of healthcare and championed for the advocacy and improved treatment of the Black community.
She is the 1st immortal human cell line to ever grow in culture, and has been used in experiments & medical research for the past 60 years.
Her story exposes the failures in bioethics and consent practices of scientists, especially amongst the treatment of the BIPOC community. Diagnosed at 30, Lacks had a malignant cervical tumor, and despite having received extreme radiation treatment her cervical cancer was far too aggressive and died at 31.
Unknowingly her tumor was biopsied, and inexplicably produced cells that have yet to stop multiplying, and is responsible for the 1st human immortal cell line, and has contributed to over 70,000 medical studies. It was considered standard practice to collect unconsented samples from women and anyone who visited public hospital wards — with informed consent only becoming a serious concept around the 1970s.
It does leave areas of doubt to how much knowledge was imparted to countless black patients seeking treatment about what would be taken & done to them.
The 1st time the Lacks family learned about the HeLa cells was 25 years after her death and has yet to receive compensation for her contributions to medicine.
“Her cells were commercialized and have generated millions of dollars in profit for the medical researchers who patented her tissue.”
Dr. Patricia Bath
Dr. Patricia Bath is responsible for establishing “eyesight is a basic human right” and co-founding the American Institution for the Prevention of Blindness.
Born in Harlem in 1942, Patricia Era Bath was nurtured and encouraged by her parents to explore cultures and her academic interests. She began collecting accolades and recognition for her intellect and research discoveries at 16, later earning degrees and fellowships from Hunter College, Howard & Columbia University, UCLA and Charles R. Drew University. “Bath was also instrumental in bringing ophthalmic surgical services to Harlem Hospital's Eye Clinic, which did not perform eye surgery in 1968. She persuaded her professors at Columbia to operate on blind patients for free, and she volunteered as an assistant surgeon. The first major eye operation at Harlem Hospital was performed in 1970 as a result of her efforts.”
Dr. Bath as the 1st African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology, was the 1st female faculty member in the Department of ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute, and was the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent when she invented the Laserphaco Probe in 1986. She was able to restore sight that had been lost for more than 30 years. Dr. Bath was the key in developing the advocacy for blindness prevention, treatment, and its cure. She passionately pursued her ambitions and overcame sexism, racism, and poverty to become a prolific scientist and true medical pioneer.
An epidemiologist from Duke University, Sherman James has made key findings in learning how BIPOC communities are at greater risk for health problems because of how often we have to cope with socio-economic hardships. He describes ‘John Henryism’ as “strong personality disposition to engage in high-effort coping with social and economic adversity.
For racial and ethnic minorities … who live in wealthy, predominantly white countries – say, the United States – that adversity might include recurring interpersonal or systemic racial discrimination.” High-effort coping, over years, results in excessive “wear and tear” on the body, damaging such things as the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and the metabolic system. Focusing on the cardiovascular system, James notes that this “enormous outpouring of energy and release of stress hormones” damages the blood vessels and the heart.” (socialsciencespace.com)
Named after the folktale of John Henry, the story of a man dying from stress while having to outperform in brutal conditions, James’ work illuminates and exposes the disproportionate interaction and connection of poverty and segregation on the health of Black Americans.
He brought to light how systemic forces impacted individuals and sought to teach doctors to practice medicine that was culturally competent.
An internationally recognized public health leader, Prothrow-Stith has served for institutions ranging from Spencer Stuart to Harvard University. She is the current dean at the Charles R. Drew University College of Medicine in Los Angeles, and she was the first woman and youngest Commissioner of Public Health in Massachusetts. A major advocate for public health development, Dr. Prothrow-Stith defined youth violence as a public health problem and went to establish the nation’s first Office of Violence Prevention in a state department of public health.
She has expanded prevention programs for HIV/AIDS and increased drug treatment and rehabilitation programs. A prolific writer and advocate against violence, she has authored over 100 publications and earned numerous honors including the World Health Day Award, 9 honorary doctorates, and a presidential appointment to the National Commission on Crime Control and Prevention.
“Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith is among the nation's pre-eminent leaders in addressing violence as a public health issue. She believes the profit motive is one reason why the United States has become a violent society. “
She observed how the healthcare system always taught prevention, except for those fallen victim to violence. She has implemented violence prevention programs from local to national levels, understanding that violence was a social “disease” just as dangerous as any health emergency. Her work and belief that homicide is a preventable public health problem earned her the Secretary's Award for Exceptional Achievement in Public Service in 1989 and the American Psychiatric Association's Solomon Carter Fuller Award in 1998.
The youngest and 1st African American to serve as president of the Planned parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). Her B.S. in nursing and M.S. in midwifery and maternal and infant health lead to become a fierce advocate in the advancement for women.
Under her 14 year tenure as president, the PPFA became one of our nation’s largest charitable organizations. With her direction, she secured federal funding for birth control and prenatal programs, fought again efforts to restrict legal abortions, and legalized the sale of the french birth control pill RU-486.
A pioneer for reproductive rights, Wattleton went on to create the think tank Center for the Advancement of Women and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She has earned 14 honorary degrees, received numerous awards including the American Humanist Award to the Fries Prize–an award recognizing accomplishments in health improvements of the greatest good for the greatest number. She believed “that people should be able to determine their own destiny, without the government attempting to restrict or dictate their circumstances.”
A courageous leader and proponent for women’s rights, she has served her community 1st hand through fierce opposition, while creating federally allocated health care services available on a national scale.
A holistic health practitioner and wellness coach for over 40 years, Queen Afua is a best selling author, creator and CEO of the Sacred Woman Rites Of Passage Program and Queen Afua Wellness Center. A natural healer and midwife, her journey in becoming a nationally renowned herbalist came through her own homeopathic healing. Her life is devoted to teaching people how to fight diseases by understanding the power of food, self-care, and living and empowering lifestyle.
Her teachings are rooted in Afrocentric spirituality and have inspired and served over 1,000,000 lives throughout the world.
Her mission is to teach how to have a wellness home by showing individuals how to heal themselves and share those learnings with their families. Her philosophies are very much a derivative of BIPOC herbalism and ancestral herbology that western cultures attempted to appropriate and eradicate. By building a community of fellowship, her ideals have had a profound impact on normalizing sacred and holistic medical practices that were once central to BIPOC cultures.
'Henrietta Lacks': A Donor's Immortal LegacyNpr.org
Informed Consent: I. History Of Informed Consenthttps://www.encyclopedia.com/
The Legacy of Henrietta Lackshttps://www.cancertodaymag.org/
Descendants of Henrietta Lacks promote trust between researchers, minority communityhttps://news.christianacare.org/
New Claims Prove the Henrietta Lacks Controversy Is Far From Overhttps://www.smithsonianmag.com/
Patricia Bath Biographyhttps://www.biography.com/
Changing the Face of Medicine : Dr. Patricia E. Bath
Patricia Bath On Being The First Person To Invent & Demonstrate Laserphaco Cataract Surgery | TIMEhttps://www.youtube.com/
Sherman James on John HenryismSherman James and the John Henryism Hypothesishttps://www.youtube.com/
DEBORAH B. PROTHROW-STITH, MD
Changing the Face of Medicine : Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith
Deborah Prothrow-Stith : Biography
Fries Prize For Improving HealthFormer Planned Parenthood President Faye Wattleton on Why We’re Still Fighting for Reproductive Healthcare
Alyce Faye Wattleton
Faye Wattleton (Alyce)https://www.womenofthehall.org/
Queen Afua Lifestyle
by Dominique Boyette
February is American Heart Month and it’s time to check in with yours.
The heart is a miraculous and powerful muscle.
According to The Heart Foundation: “High blood pressure means your heart is pumping harder than it should. High blood pressure puts your arteries under constant stress and speeds up arteriosclerosis, a condition that makes your arteries get harder, narrower, and clogged with fatty plaque. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. The prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans is the highest in the world. Not only is high blood pressure more severe in blacks than whites, it also develops earlier in life.
High blood pressure is often referred to as the silent killer, as the heart can become permanently damaged before any symptoms are apparent. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected and controlled through medications, a healthy diet and exercise. ”
It’s a silent killer for a reason.
Our ability to live with and suffer through pain are what allow us to be unknowingly living with dangerously high blood pressure and to be living at risk where our health could change in an instant.
At any moment a blood vessel could burst, give out, become clogged, we are always one beat away from a change.
The CDC reports it claims more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined, with Black women having the highest death rates of all racial and ethnic groups. “About 2 out of every 5 African American adults have high blood pressure, and less than half of them have it under control. African American adults are much more likely to suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension), heart attacks, and stroke deaths than white adults. Individuals living below the federal poverty level are more likely to have high blood pressure compared with those living at the highest level of income.”
It seems that access and hesitancy to seeking help or treatment are the key factors in our numbers for hypertension and heart risk being so high.
Some factors like salt sensitivity, and other “potential confounders, including race/ethnicity, age, sex, education, insurance status, financial status, general health status, functional status, body mass index, diabetes mellitus, smoking status, physical activity, and sodium, fiber, alcohol, and total daily calorie intake” are what keep the BIPOC community at a greater risk for heart disease and hypertension than anyone else.
While the health disparities we are often casualties of are caused by systemic racism, we can take control. Urban Health Group LLC provides opportunity for health equity, and while we are here to advocate for your treatments and help you navigate through the healthcare system, there are simple steps we all need to take to make sure that the risks the system deems inevitable, changes to the preventable.
We can empower ourselves and adjust habit to make the risks could be far more manageable. We can counter some of the risk factors.
One major element is salt.
We know it, we hear it, AND WE WILL SAY IT AGAIN!
Watch the salt intake.
If the salt is already in the food, we don’t need more. Personally I love salt, I cook everyday, and as a test for myself I’ve been purposefully omitting it from every meal to see if I can actually taste the difference. I can’t.
More than anything, not adding salt showed me how frequently and unnecessarily add it to my meals. It made me think of the difference it could make on my family living with high blood pressure now.
Not a lesson on how to eat, but encouragement for us to eat more diversely and have faith and fun in the flavors of our cultures without leaning so heavily on salt. It is very easy to forget how much salt is already present in processed foods we’re cooking with. Holding back on adding more to our foods before tasting could have an increasing beneficial effect on us long term.
Here is a nutritional guide on how we can reevaluate our plates:
WE ARE NOT HELPLESS OR HOPELESS. There are things within our control that we can start doing today!
A little bit of movement everyday, small adjustments like the DASH DIET, has proven to make long lasting positive effects on our health and heart. Average life expectancy in the U.S. is about 80 years of age, that translates to over 3 BILLION heart beats!!!
Take your health and heart into your own hands, it will thank you with a lifetime.
LIKE, SHARE, COMMENT
10 Interesting Facts About The Human Hearthttps://www.flushinghospital.org/
Celebrate American Heart Month with Go Red for Women
Heart Disease: It Can Happen at Any Age
Why Do Black Americans Have Higher Prevalence of Hypertension?
AFRICAN AMERICANS AND HEART DISEASE
High Blood Pressure in African-Americans
High Blood Pressure in African-Americans
Nutrition and healthy eatinghttps://www.mayoclinic.orgWhat Breakfast Looks Like in 50 Countrieshttps://www.thedailymeal.com/
HEART BEATS PER LIFETIME
By: Erika Takeda Eastham and Leticia Vaca
February is Black History Month and American Heart Month. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer for all Americans, and stroke is also a leading cause of death. As frightening as those statistics are the risks of getting those diseases are even higher for African-Americans.
Heart Disease and African Americans Facts:
We are taking the opportunity to share the heart healthy benefits of some of African American and Caribbean Soul food favorites with a Nutritional Goodness twist. As I plan on expanding my family, it is important for me to learn more about African American culture to be more informed of the healthy options that are already available. Food has been one of the most salient ways of preserving cultural traditions and fostering strong familial ties.
Oldways oﬀers a wealth of online health information and recipes; and teaches how of the ancestors of African Americans brought many wonderful food traditions to parts of the Caribbean, South America, and the southern states of the U.S. Over the generations, many of these food traditions have been lost with the inﬂuences of modern American eating habits.
Here are their 10 Steps to Getting started with African Heritage Diet:
Visit their site here: https://oldwayspt.org/traditional-diets/african-heritage-diet
Additionally, Tiffany Townsend-Smith, MS, Functional Nutrition, and Brent Steinmetz, RD share how they use culturally focused food for heart health.
Tiffany Townsend-Smith is an AMAZING Functional Nutrition and Wellness Coach, has a Masters in Nutrition, and she is a Pilates Instructor.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans (1). Unfortunately, racial and ethnic minority populations have a higher rate of cardiovascular disease and risk factors for the disease than whites (2). Lifestyle factors play a large role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. These factors include exercise, controlling stress and one of the most important is diet. It can be difficult trying to figure out what to eat while also making sure we still enjoy what we eat. Growing up in a Caribbean household, two of my favorite foods were rice and peas, and fried red snapper. There are certainly ways to improve these without compromising taste or culture.
Rice and peas are a heart healthy dish, but a way to make it even better is by substituting brown rice. Brown rice provides more fiber per serving than white rice which is helpful in reducing cholesterol and inflammation (3). Peas, beans and other legumes have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to decrease blood pressure, inflammation and cholesterol (4). Some great options to try are lentils, pinto beans and chickpeas.
Consuming fish especially a fish like red snapper is a great way to increase omega-3s in your diet which also beneficial to improving heart health. However, the fried snapper I grew up on could actually increase the risk of heart disease if not consumed in moderation. Rather than deep frying, baking or grilling fish is a great alternative and pairing it with a heart healthy fat such as extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil can help to boost the overall nutrient density. Another great way to improve preparation of fish is to use an air fryer. Air fryers can provide that same crispiness as deep frying but without the negative effects.
Enjoying and having fun with what you make to eat is so important. Taking the time to make small tweaks to your favorite dishes can help immensely in reducing your risk of heart related diseases.
To stay up to date with all things nutrition from Tiffany T Smith follow her on Instagram: @tiffsmithnutrition
Brent Steinmetz, MS, RD, CSSD, CPT, PN2 is a Registered Dietician and has over 15 years experience as a fitness professional. He attended the University of Delaware and West Chester University for Undergraduate studies in Nutrition. He is a former football player and has won a Division 1 AA National Championship. He has earned a Dual Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition & Exercise Physiology from Florida State University. Please read his insightful post and enjoy:
Most individuals can appreciate a heart-felt, loving, quality tasting home cooked meal. However, what do some of the typical soul food concoctions do for the body?
Soul food is typically very wholesome, non-processed, made from scratch, as that's how the origins of soul food developed in ancient history (1). Eating whole foods is a positive action for our body's metabolism. Catfish, spare ribs, and any variation of greens combined can create a balanced meal if we consider two common barriers people struggle with in their diet - adequate protein and vegetables. We can assist our overall health with emphasis on vegetables, and balance blood sugars with adequate protein. So, where's the drawback(s)?
One of the biggest obstacles for anyone with pleasant tasting food is the hormone response telling our brain to "Eat More!" Our self-evaluation of fullness becomes masked and overlooked. As a result, caloric intake starts to dominate in comparison to calorie burn. This will cascade into some adverse responses to the body over time, for example the accumulation of body fat. A high body fat composition further interferes with the function of the body, then our health becomes a concern.
Another obstacle surrounding soul food consumption is Carbohydrate content in ratio to Protein and Healthy Fats. How does your plate look? Are we making sure most of our plate is filled with fresh vegetables and a wild caught fish (example) or are we dominating our plate with multiple squares of cornbread and additional quantities of barbecue sauce? It's challenging to highlight awareness around this when again, our hormones will tell our brains "we want carbs, we need carbs!" And it's true, we do need carbs, but can we thoughtfully balance our carbs with planning and action... YES! Then turn it into a good habit.
The final obstacle is our trends for lack of total body movement following a quality meal that has taken us to 100% (+) fullness and/or contains abundant carbohydrates. How many of us can name a family member and "their chair" that they're going to after their meal consumption? Soul food was created purposely to create high calorie meals.
About Urban Health Group LLC:
To Empower Black, Indigenous, People of Color ( B.I.P.O.C.) with tools and support to effectively navigate their health and mental health needs for better wellness.
We are eliminating healthcare disparities and reducing healthcare biases for Black, Indigenous, People of Color.
-We will eliminate healthcare disparities for Black, Indigenous, People of Color.
-We will address healthcare biases head on through strategic partnerships.
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By: Dominique Boyette and Leticia Vaca
Happy Black History Month!
Even as a Black person, I continue to learn new things about the contributions, advancements, and creations made by Black people. Black History Month is a built-in reminder to continue to seek to uncover the hidden history of Black people.
Traditional systems, like schools, have shown limited learning and understanding--at times a complete omission-- of the expansive and diverse history of Black people. There is still so much impressive, innovative, and celebratory history of Black people.
This week we honor the wealth of knowledge of Black medicine & homeopathy discovered by African and Indigenous herbalists. One of the many pivotal & vital positions the BIPOC community has had in world and American history is that of the healer.
While many medical firsts and breakthroughs were made by the Black community, 1st heart operation, inventing surgical techniques, developing treatment tests, or simply being the key to life, ; there are many more medicinal contributions and practices brought by slaves & indigenous peoples before modern medicine throughout US History. (sidenote: we will also highlight these pioneers on our social media pages).
Western herbalism, and medicine at large, appropriated and sought to destroy Native, Indigenous and African medicinal practices. By the time of slavery in the United States it had become fully stigmatized, made unsafe, and even illegal to teach or practice. It’s because of systematic racism and the historic cultural erasure that we have lost so much of our Ancestral knowledge.
Indigenous Americans and enslaved Africans would share their agricultural expertise based on their knowledge of the land. Plants like nutrient rich Mullein could be used as an anti-inflammatory or to ease colds and respiratory conditions like bronchitis and whooping cough. Or simply used aloe vera on cuts and burns and ate raw garlic. Many simple common practices lost their spiritual and medical explanations, but remained a staple healing and restorative tradition.
We still can find the threads of our histories and teachings and undoubtedly see B.I.P.O.C. doctors and patients at the helm of major medical discoveries.
I am in constant awe of the observational beauty and simplicity of herbalism created by African & Indigenous peoples. To think over 400 years ago you could find an elder that knew how to heal specific ailments with herbs in our backyard. It gives me an indescribable ache I feel I can only remedy by trying to educate myself with what the effects colonization took from African and Native people.
I don’t get sick that often, but when I do I go to the internet searching for an herbal or all natural alternative to remedy my issue. Give me a tea, a balm, or a pressure point and I’m all over it.
It was a common practice for enslaved communities--and later African american communities at large--to use water infusions or decoctions as oral or topical remedies. Decoction is the liquor resulting from concentrating the essence of a substance by heating or boiling, especially a medicinal preparation made from a plant. This practice reminds me of tinctures we see today, cute little bottles with diligent little droppers.Tinctures are a Western adaptation and were not prominent or traditional in the African diaspora at all because of their high cost to produce and their use of alcohol, a product restricted to slaves.
Black People have shown resourcefulness and innovation in the medicinal practice of healing physical ailments. “Healthcare” was a practice shared within our communities. Today's healthcare systems, the practice of Western medicine and pharmacies, benefits and earns a hefty profit from the generational knowledge that was intended to be shared and taught for free.
There is a great opportunity to explore and integrate ancestral healing practice into our traditional western healthcare systems. We do that by honoring individual cultural identities, values, and expressions.
In other words - We invite you to do your own research.
Ask your family
Ask your friends
Ask your doctor as many questions as possible about their knowledge and recommendations; share the stories, read the books, write down the recipes again and rebuild what was once so sacred, and always consult with your doctor first about how you can incorporate these practices in your care.
Here are some of my favorite herbal remedies taught & shared with me from family & friends, and some I discovered along the way.
Hope you enjoy & begin to find new ways of healing through discovering your own roots and taking the lead in your own health & well-being .
Please take these remedies with a grain salt…and maybe gargle it with some warm water!
Disclaimer: Always consult your primary care doctor for addressing your physical and mental health needs.
What remedies have been shared and passed down through your family? Share in the Comment section.
PLEASE CONSULT A MEDICAL PROVIDER PRIOR TO TRYING THESE REMEDIES.
“Black History Month: A Medical Perspective: Chronology of Achievements”
Duke University Medical Center LIbrary & Archives
“The History of Midwifery”
Our bodies ourselves
“ROOTS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HERBALISM: HERBAL USE BY ENSLAVED AFRICANS”
The Herbal Academy
“The Reclamation of Ancestral Herbalism”
“The Legacy of Henrietta Lacks”
John Hopkins Medicine
Mildred Jackson/Handbook for Alternatives to Chemical Medicine
Urban Health Group LLC hosts a 30-minute Zoom Q&A on how you can navigate medical emergencies & plan well for care.
(5) Essentials to know for a medical emergency:
1.Locate your closest hospital with an ER
2.Medical history: yours and family diagnoses
3.Learn your blood type
4.Save an Adviceline number to your phone
5. Register for the Plan Well for Care Course