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Closing the Health Disparity Gap for Black Women

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  • African American women are three times more likely to die from complications due to pregnancy.
  • Black women are disproportionately burdened by chronic conditions, such as anemia, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and obesity.
  • Evidence exists that racial differences in socioeconomic (education and employment) and housing outcomes results in systematic unequal treatment of Black women.

These are just a few of the reasons Houston’s Leading Black Information Source is hosting the 2nd State of Black Women Health Forum at HISD’s Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy, 1906 Cleburne St., in Houston. The event scheduled on Wednesday, May 18 is two-fold with student assemblies in the morning and an adult program beginning with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and a program at 6:30 p.m.

While the student portion of the event will focus on physical and mental health, the adult session will add a discussion on sexual health as a component. Health questions from the audience will be answered by black medical professionals who commonly address the health care needs unique to Black women. Admission is free with registration.

“This forum brings Black girls and Black women together with women medical professionals to help provide a roadmap for their lifelong health journey,” said Sonny Messiah-Jiles, CEO of the Defender Network. “We are grateful for our sponsors who recognize the importance of empowering Black women with health information to improve the quality of their lives.”

Sponsors for the 2nd State of Black Women Health Forum are H-E-B., Texas Children’s Hospital, J.P. Morgan Chase, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the City of Houston, HillDay Public Relations and The Steve Fund, an organization dedicated to the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color.

“At H-E-B, our mission is to do our part to take care of Texans, and we’re proud to support wellness initiatives that work to educate and improve the health of women and communities of color,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice President of Public Affairs, Diversity and Environmental Affairs. “H-E-B believes food plays an important role in a person’s wellbeing, and we’re committed to providing families throughout Texas quality, nutritional food to help them live happier and healthier lives.

 “Black women, especially younger women, are more likely to have more aggressive breast cancers at an earlier age and die more often from the disease, making breast cancer screening, early detection and clinical trial enrollment especially important for our community,” said Lorna McNeill, Ph.D., chair of Health Disparities Research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. McNeill will speak on clinical trials and health disparities at the event.

“Texas Children’s Hospital is incredibly proud to be a sponsor of this year’s State of Black Women Health Forum,” said Michelle Riley Brown, Executive Vice President of Texas Children’s Hospital. “All Black women and girls should have access not only to quality medical care that specifically addresses their needs, but also to vital information essential for their long-term physical and emotional health. Thank you so much to all the participating speakers and panelists and to Sonny Messiah-Jiles for spearheading this critical conversation.”

Black women organizations from across the city will encourage members to participate in the forum with the goal of winning the special attendance prizes: First prize $1,000, Second prize $500 or Third prize $250. The event includes swag bags for the first one hundred attendees, door prizes and lots of fun and information.

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The Importance of CPR in Saving Lives

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Monday night football on Jan. 2 came to a halt when Buffalo Bill player Damar Hamlin fell to the field, suffering cardiac arrest. A quick-thinking athletic trainer, Denny Kellington, jumped into action and immediately started doing chest compressions to save the 24-year-old’s life. 

In an unprecedented NFL move, the game was postponed and later canceled altogether, and Hamlin was transported to an intensive care unit. Now with the news of him heading home soon to recover, the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) would like to remind people of the importance of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation or CPR to save a person’s life. ABC added Hamlin is unusually fortunate to have benefited from prompt and appropriate action from highly skilled medical personnel, which is not typically the case when a similar incident occurs in a lower-profile setting. 

With a half-million cardiac arrests each year, CPR can help save a life if a person’s breathing or heart stops. This training is not just for healthcare workers and emergency responders. In fact, CPR can double or triple the chance of survival when bystanders take action. CPR combines chest compressions with rescue breathing, restoring regular breathing and a heartbeat to an individual suffering from cardiac arrest. It keeps blood pumping through the body to vital organs until medical help arrives on the scene. 

The Association of Black Cardiologists strongly endorses exercise as a key pillar to living long and healthy lives; however, there are dangers, particularly in competitive contact sports. Fortunately, such events are rare and range in incidents from 1 in 40,000 to 1 in 80,000, depending on factors such as the type of sport and the athlete’s age.

While not official yet, it’s reported that Hamlin most likely suffered from a special cardiac arrest brought upon by blunt trauma to the chest, known medically as commotio cordis. The energy transferred from a focal, high-velocity impact to the chest wall by an object such as a baseball, hockey puck, football helmet, or even a fist or foot can, when occurring at a precise moment during the heartbeat [called the vulnerable period], lead to ventricular fibrillation – a chaotic, disorganized cardiac rhythm that results in cessation of effective pump function and loss of pulse. This rhythm leads to sudden cardiac death unless immediately reversed, typically as in this case, by application of an electric shock from a defibrillator.  

The Association of Black Cardiologists said while commotio cordis is a strong consideration for the cause of Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, many other underlying conditions must be assessed in sports-related cardiac arrest, including heart diseases.

Locally, AugustHeart provides free Heart Screening for teens ages 13 to 18 on Jan. 21 from 7 am to 9 am at Christus Santa Rosa Hospital – Alamo Heights. AugustHeart’s mission is to provide free heart screening for teenagers to identify selected heart abnormalities to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death. For more information, email info@augustheart.org or call 210-267-2771. Additionally, the American Red Cross provides a variety of local online and hybrid CPR training for a cost. New parents can often get free CPR training in the community as part of childbirth classes. 

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Black Life Texas

Financial Support for Family Caregivers

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Being a caregiver for a loved one is a selfless act. This is the reality for millions of Americans who are now faced with an aging Baby Boomer population who will be faced with more chronic health issues.
In San Antonio with a population of 1.5 million, 17% are aged 60 and over and is expected to grow by about 20% by 2040.

San Antonio resident Cara Pitts has a similar caregiving story of sacrifices. She had a successful career in the healthcare industry when she made the difficult decision to leave her career to take care of her grandmother, Mary Lee, who needed a helping hand after recovering from a stroke. Cara, her husband, and her stepson went from living on two incomes to just one. But Cara soon learned how to navigate her grandmother’s Medicare and Medicaid insurance benefits, which paid for caregiving.

Lost income due to family caregiving is estimated at $522 billion each year. Around 53 million people annually provide a broad range of assistance to support the health, quality of life, and independence of an aging family member, or a loved one who has a disability or chronic health condition. Another 2.7 million grandparent caregivers – and an unknown number of other relative caregivers – open their homes each year to millions of children who cannot remain with their parents. In recent years, additional attention has been given to measuring the financial impact of family caregiving, such as lost wages, reduction in workforce, and the out-of-pocket costs caregivers often incur for meals, transportation, medical supplies, toys, educational tools, home modifications, and more.

When the challenges become overwhelming and family caregivers can’t provide support, the people they care for often are left with no choices except moving to nursing homes and other institutions or to foster care – the cost of which is typically borne by taxpayers. Many caregivers are unaware they can get funded by programs like Medicaid, Veteran Affairs, and Medicare to ease the financial burden.

. . . start seeing income come in about six months after getting the process started (through Medicaid).

“Many families are stressed because they don’t want to put their loved ones in nursing homes or other places and don’t want to leave their careers,” Cara Pitts said. “My grandmother did really well at the nursing home for a few years and became a star resident. The staff even gave her an employee name tag and made her the head of the welcome committee and VIP perks for happy hour. After a few years, the unfortunate reality of nursing home living set in when she saw friend after friend pass away, and Mary Lee became depressed. We knew something needed to change.”

Pitts has since taught other family and friends how to become paid family caregivers and recently started a website and online course (CaregivingFromHome.com) to teach others how to navigate the system. She also co-founded a gourmet plant-based brand Southern Roots Vegan Bakery with her husband Marcus Pitts and even named their best-selling cakes after Mary Lee.

On average, the family and friends that Cara Pitts has helped can start seeing income come in about six months after getting the process started (through Medicaid). She offers a free six-step guide on her website that includes learning about a Home and Community-Based Services Program and checking if some private insurance companies have caregiving benefits for long-term care.

Just recently in September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Administration for Community Living, released the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers. It highlights nearly 350 actions the federal government will take to support family caregivers in the coming year. Some of the recommendations highlighted include incentives for healthcare systems to incorporate caregivers into decision-making for the person receiving care; redesign the Medicaid eligibility process so that the care recipient does not have to deplete most of their assets to qualify for support; allow kin and grandparent caregivers who have primary responsibility for a child to claim the federal Child Tax Credit; and introduce a range of incentives to encourage employers to adopt caregiver-friendly practices, including tax incentives.

This new strategy and report is expected to be a living document and updated every two years, as required by the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act of 2017.
To learn how to get paid as a family caregiver or to ensure you are getting the support you need, sign up and get the free six-step guide.

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Community

Metro Health Pushes Community to Receive Flu Shot

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As cases increase and festivities are nearby, the community is encouraged to follow safety measures to prevent illnesses

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) is encouraging the community to take safety measures to prevent any illness, especially during the fall and winter seasons as temperatures continue to drop and holiday festivities begin. 

The flu vaccine is the first step toward protection. Anyone six months and older is eligible to receive their vaccine yearly. Pregnant women and individuals with underlying health conditions are encouraged to seek protection as soon as possible. 

“The Metro Health Department continues its outreach efforts to educate the public on the importance of getting the flu shot,” says Claude A. Jacob, Metro Health Director. “During the upcoming holiday festivities, it is very important to take extra care of yourself by making sure that you are protected this season and to stay at home/away from loved ones if you are sick. Remember, flu vaccinations prevent illnesses, medical visits, hospitalizations, and deaths.” 

As festivities such as Halloween and Día de los Muertos are approaching, the Metro Health Department encourages the community to take the following into consideration:

  • If you feel sick, stay home to avoid spreading viruses to others 
  • Monitor your symptoms including fever, cough, chills, headaches, runny nose, sore throat, muscle or body aches, fatigue, vomiting, or diarrhea 
  • If you are sick, do not hand out candy to trick-or-treaters during Halloween
  • Get tested for the flu before attending any festivity (trick-or-treating or attending a Día de los Muertos celebration)
  • Stay up to date on the latest news regarding the flu, COVID-19, and vaccines 
  • Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds when you return home

Metro Health Immunization clinics currently offer flu and COVID-19 vaccines. For more information, the community can call 210-207-8894 or visit https://www.sanantonio.gov/Health/HealthServices/Immunizations.

For any questions regarding vaccines, the community is also encouraged to consult with their medical provider.

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