Black Americans have historically had a strained relationship with the U.S. healthcare system. Insufficient access to quality care and affordable medication, negative health outcomes, and inadequate cultural competency have defined healthcare delivery for People of Color for many years. How Black Americans view their own health, however, differs. To gain a deeper understanding of Black Americans' views on health and well-being, ThinkNow and Quantasy + Associates conducted a multi-wave study on the current state of Black Americans. This wave's findings suggest Black health is more encouraging than the prevailing narrative implies.
While the disparities mentioned above are real, and the rate of uninsured Black adults is slightly higher than the general population, they are more likely to say they have the support they need to manage their health than non-Blacks (73% vs. 70%). In fact, Black Americans rate their current state of health on par with non-Black Americans. Seventy-nine percent believe their state of health is good compared to 76% of non-Blacks. Black Americans are also more likely to claim that being healthy is something they're intentional about, with 72% stating that being healthy is something they work hard at compared to 66% of non-blacks. Being healthy was also more likely to be mentioned as a life goal in this community, and that desire increases with education and income.
Black communities have strong cultural traditions of healing and wellness. The use of alternative and complementary medicine is popular regardless of income or health coverage status. When given a choice, 57% of Blacks prefer to use natural remedies over prescription medication compared to 49% of non-Blacks. This does not mean, however, that they aren't aware of prescription drug options since 63% state they pay attention to advertising about health and medications compared to 52% of non-Blacks.
Black men have some of the worst health indicators among racial and ethnic groups in America. They don't, however, view their own health negatively. Their positive attitude may be counter-productive since they're less likely to visit doctors than Black women. Fifty-three percent of Black men state that they only see doctors when they're sick vs. 43% of Black women. They are also more likely to state that good health runs in their family (57%) than Black women (38%). This optimism may influence their decisions on whether to seek the preventive or early care needed to improve health outcomes.
Black Americans are prioritizing their mental and emotional well-being. They are more likely than non-Blacks to "completely agree" that mental health is a significant part of overall health (58% vs. 50%), and Black women are especially attuned to the importance of mental health with 63% in complete agreement that it's significant. There also appears to be less stigma in seeking medical help for mental health issues with 48% of Black respondents stating they're comfortable doing so vs. 42% of Whites, 36% of Hispanics and 27% of Asians. Additionally, Blacks are more likely to state they know what they need to do to stay mentally healthy than non-Blacks.
Black Americans are on par with other segments in understanding the components of a healthy diet. Seventy-seven percent choose fruits and vegetables when looking for healthy food, which is the same percentage as non-Blacks. They are slightly less likely to go for 'low sugar or sugar-free' products, but they shift to this more with age. Younger generations were more inclined to look for fortified, keto or high protein, low carb, and plant-based/vegan products. Rates of exercise were also similar to non-Blacks though they are slightly less likely to do cardio exercise and slightly more likely to engage in team or competitive sports.
Despite prevailing systemic obstacles, the Black community is taking ownership of its health outcomes and seeking to stay healthy. Black Americans increasingly rely on natural and plant-based approaches to wellness, prioritizing mindfulness and valuing mental and spiritual well-being. Marketing to this segment should be grounded in these truths and focused on preserving health, which aligns with Black Americans' optimism, as much as preventing and treating illness. By listening to and embracing Black voices, we take a positive step toward achieving health equity in the U.S. that serves the entire community's needs.
According to a 2020 study by the American Medical Association, fewer clinicians are starting their own practices and instead seeking jobs at hospitals or larger medical groups. The economic fallout of the pandemic hit private practices hard, and many are still struggling to get patients back into the office. Some clinicians are willing to forgo autonomy in favor of the paycheck security and benefits hospitals provide, particularly Black and Latino individuals, who may graduate with more debt and less support than their White counterparts.
Fintech innovations enable minority clinicians to reimagine private practice and use it as a means to return to their communities to start, scale, and sustain these small businesses and improve health outcomes in their communities.
Ease is an all-in-one financial practice operations platform that helps clinicians build new practices online in minutes, offering the first and only corporate card for private practices and other automated financial systems.
In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Mario Amaro, Founder and CEO of Ease, discusses how fintech can help clinicians accelerate the growth of their private practices and provide equitable healthcare.
The patient journey starts with vulnerability. There is a need yet all too often within minority communities, that need isn’t met with adequate resources. Latinos, in particular, face several obstacles to accessing health care, from difficulties finding information in their native language to a shortage of Latino or bilingual doctors. Additionally, lack of transportation and reluctance to take time off work, alongside the fear of deportation for undocumented Latinos, further exacerbate the problem. As a consequence, some Latinos forgo care, and that decision could prove fatal.
To address these barriers and improve health outcomes for Latinos, it’s essential to understand their patient journey and identify the friction points, one being the lack of community navigators. Community navigators, more commonly known as community health workers, are the bridge between the healthcare system and patient care. Community health workers are essential to underserved communities as they attempt to simplify and demystify the complex systems that have historically ignored the needs of minority communities.
In Latino communities, these navigators are known as promotores de salud (promotoras). Promotoras play a critical role in educating Latinos and directing them to resources, like primary care physicians, which is in stark contrast to them relying on informal information sources like social media or family. These individuals, seen as trusted messengers, are often Latino and understand the plight of Latino families and make recommendations that align with the Latino lifestyle in efforts to close the health equity gap.
Zócalo Health has its finger on the pulse of Latino health care and champions the use of promotoras. Through its innovative virtual-first family medicine service for Latinos, it’s committed to helping remove barriers to healthcare by offering convenient, transparent, and culturally-aligned care to members.
In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Mariza Hardin, Co-Founder, Head of Strategy and Operations, and Erik Cardenas, Co-Founder, CEO of Zócalo Health, share the importance of promotoras (community health workers) in improving health care outcomes for Latino communities.
Notes from the trenches
You may wonder why I'm publishing this article on this platform. It's a fair question that I'm not sure I have a simple answer for. In part, it is a bit therapeutic for me. As a sales and marketing professional, it’s also an opportunity to raise a flag. I've found that the media and brands in general are becoming more sensitive to the challenges of disabled individuals. Yet, they’re overlooking the challenges of the parents and extended families who are caretakers for loved ones with severe disabilities.
In honor of Disability Pride Month, I hope that sharing my experience will help others who find themselves in similar circumstances or prompt more research into ways society can help alleviate some of the burdens faced by parents of children with extreme special needs.
I am a proud father to a special needs boy born with Dandy Walker Syndrome. If you are not familiar with his condition, you are not alone. It's a fairly rare condition that affects about 1 in 25,000 children. Dandy Walker is a cerebellum malformation diagnosed or developed at birth or within the first year. The effects of the syndrome can range from mild to severe developmental delays to impairment of intellectual growth and gross motor skills. Other abnormalities and conditions often present with Dandy Walker, such as heart defects, malformations of the urogenital tract, extra or fused fingers and toes, abnormal facial features, vision and sight issues and potential seizures.
Our son was diagnosed with Dandy Walker and a missing corpus callosum (the connective tissue of your right and left side of your brain) as well as a partial cleft palate. It was not the trifecta you wanted to hear upon your son's birth. In fact, his condition was a complete surprise to us. During the pregnancy, the doctor missed signs of the disorder in check-ups and tests.
That said, I think back on that and realize it was a blessing in disguise. We were able to celebrate our pregnancy with no knowledge of a pending issue which would have caused incredible stress on both myself and my wife not to mention questions of what to do or not do in terms of carrying on. Upon birth we were faced with the very real situation of his condition but even then, we didn't have a full grasp on how challenging his condition would be for him and our family.
Our doctor told us in that moment that our son may never be able to hold his head up and that the road ahead would be difficult. But we knew we were all in for our son the moment we laid eyes on him.
There are an estimated 5.9 million children with severe disabilities in the U.S. and most of them are cared for at home by their parents. Interestingly, there isn't a lot of research on families regarding special needs and even less so around the more medically fragile. I was able to find research on caregivers of older people and adults with disabilities and it shows that caregiving can take a mental and physical toll. "A substantial body of research shows that family members who provide care to individuals with chronic or disabling conditions are themselves at risk. Emotional, mental, and physical health problems arise from complex caregiving situations and the strains of caring for frail or disabled relatives."
The research that specifically addresses parenting special needs children seems to focus on divorce rates. Some reports cite high levels of divorce, while others state the research is inconclusive. I can tell you from first-hand experience it is not an easy life. My anecdotal observation is a strong family unit is key, and sharing responsibilities for care is a must.
Caretaking for the most medically fragile is both mentally and physically draining. The road will never be easy, and without progress in the child’s developmental skills, that road will get significantly harder as your child grows. Basic tasks like taking a bath will become even more challenging.
Tools and resources to help do exist. However, getting access to them is in and of itself a complicated and challenging endeavor. Early on, I was given great advice: to start tapping into resources as soon as possible as it will take a long time to get approved. I was also advised to work with our doctors to ensure our son's diagnosis was properly reported and to get all paperwork filled out quickly. Local and state agencies are often understaffed, so any questions or errors will lead to delays in getting help.
Even once you are accepted or approved for services you will still face an uphill battle for retaining them or justifying their existence for your child in the future. I understand that some additional steps are necessary to mitigate the risk of fraud, but it can be frustrating nonetheless.
Hopefully, you now have services set up and potentially some kind of respite via caretakers, so everything should be OK, right? Not so fast. That is just part of the hurdle. Another large challenge is your own mental state. In my opinion, this is the aspect of special needs that is not addressed. I couldn't find data specific to caring for special needs children, but the AARP Public Policy Institute conducted research that shows that nearly 40% of caregivers of family members experience emotional stress from caregiving.
The impact on mental health for those caring for loved ones in extreme situations can manifest in several ways.
The same challenges are there in other public spaces. Accessible stalls, while great, are still not going to be the right fit for trying to change a diaper on a child that is older than five. Not to mention that the accessible stall seems to be coveted by practically everyone who "wants more space" for when they go to the restroom but somehow forget how to be clean about doing so.
Above is just a small portion of the challenges parents of special needs kids face. These things and countless others like education pile up over time. It all can lead to unbearable stress on the family unit. How do we help? I don't have a magic bullet or plan. I am in the trenches every day, and I often can't see past what is in front of me. But if I had to put a few at the top of my list, I would say:
If you are still here reading, I thank you for reading through what seems to be a bit of a rant and, again, certainly therapeutic for me. I feel a bit selfish in writing this. My burden isn't your burden, and no doubt you have your own, so please accept my apology and thanks. I guess I have heard so many times the phrase "I can't imagine what it's like" that I thought just maybe I could help paint that picture for those who, at some point in their mind or out loud said, "I can't imagine what it's like to be in your situation."