Barnes: Celebrating Black History Month by recognizing and tackling health disparities

EHF's Dr. Ann Barnes says by going beyond the doctor’s office to impact the non-medical factors that impact health, EHF aims to address preventable health differences that are too often prevalent in Black communities.
Picture of Dr. Ann Barnes

Dr. Ann Barnes

EHF's President and CEO

At EHF, we’re dedicated to promoting equity by improving #HealthNotJustHealthCare. That effort requires all of us to shift the health system to benefit all Texans.

EHF’s new strategic framework targets three priorities: food/nutrition security, maternal health, and diabetes prevention. Why? Because we believe that addressing these critical conditions and issues will lead to a ripple effect of good health for all communities. 

As we step into the beginning of Black History Month, it’s crucial to reflect on how the intersection of racial history and health equity affects Black communities. Take a look at diabetes where there are stark disparities in health outcomes: Black adults are 60% more likely to be diagnosed than White adults. Many times, these health inequities stem from non-medical drivers of health – factors outside the doctor’s office that impact a person’s overall health and well-being such as limited access to affordable nutritious food, lack of sidewalks or safe environments for exercise, chronic stress, and more. In many neighborhoods across Texas, these negative non-medical factors disproportionately affect under-resourced Black families. 

In Texas, the maternal health crisis is also particularly alarming. The state’s maternal mortality rate is consistently high or above the national average and disproportionately affects Black women, irrespective of their socioeconomic status. This is another reminder of the deep-rooted impact of structural racism on health outcomes in Texas and beyond.

Our approach at EHF focuses on nurturing community-led initiatives to tackle these health challenges head on. As we honor Black History Month, and reflect on the strides made since the Civil Rights Movement, we also should reaffirm our commitment to health equity and celebrate the resilience and spirit of the communities we serve.