Lovell's Food For Thought - Racism & Health Inequities

Do We Really Want to Address Either? My Perception is NO

Dr. Lovell Jones | 12/5/2017, 6 a.m.
Thirty years ago I wrote my first NIH grant on addressing breast cancer in African American Women. In that grant ...
Dr. Lovell A. Jones retired as Professor Emeritus from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Thirty years ago I wrote my first NIH grant on addressing breast cancer in African American Women. In that grant I included a section on the impact of racism on outcomes. The grant was not scored. In fact, I was told that it really was not reviewed. The basic statement was that everyone knew that Black women delayed in seeking care. Ten years later I wrote an article for "The Scientist" entitled "Racism Has An Impact On Research And Health Care Policy." One of the primary reasons the article was published because of writer by the name of Myrna Watanabe. Ms. Wananabe has attended the Biennial Symposium on Minorities, the Medically Underserved & Cancer and has a chance to get to know me personally. As I'ce said to my trainees, a great deal of progress is due to relationships.

Around the same time, serving on the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Integration Panel, I asked this question - how many Black women needed to die before we really do something about address this issue. Guess which member has never been invited back to serve? Today, racism is now a topic, as it relates to health. However, let me just say that this is not new. it has been a topic for years. It is just coming up with a new set of people. So, the question I have continued ask is when will it not just be a topic of discussion and someone be held accountable for all these deaths. Only then will we truly see progress and not a topic of an article, a presentation or a panel discussion.

So here is the evergreen piece written 20 years again in "The Scientist" - Vol:11, #4, p. 11 , February 17, 1997. . Somethings have changes, but how many people of color are dying unnecessary? That's the number that counts and not the number of papers and invitations to speak on the topic. This past summer, with the help of a brilliant woman by the name of Karen Chatman, the workshop reached 10,000s of people. More than, it has every reached. So we know what the solutions are. The question I also continue to ask is, do we want to continue to invest in reinventing the wheel or solving the problem. in reading the following, notice how many wheels we have reinvested over the years.

Benign neglect, or ignoring an often undesirable situation rather than dealing with it, is an attitude with which minorities are quite familiar. Couple it with politics and racism, and you face a system that has been unresponsive to the educational, research, and health care needs of minorities and the poor in the United States.

Few mainstream research institutions or government agencies have addressed minority health in a proactive manner. Most take a reactive approach‐because someone pressures them, or in response to recent laws requiring involvement of women and minorities in clinical trials, or because they are trying to secure additional money targeted for minority healthhen you have already stereotyped him or her on the basis of race? Supreme Court Justice Thurgood issues. A few institutions, such as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, have had a true interest in addressing health issues in minority populations.