February is Black History Month

Black History Month is recognized annually during the month of February to highlight achievements of Black Americans and their impact on U.S. history. The theme for this year’s Black History Month is “Black Health and Wellness,” which pays tribute to the contributions of Black health care professionals serving communities throughout the country while highlighting health, mental health, and wellness issues that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color continually face.

In the spirit of this year’s theme, the Community Health Care Association of New York State (CHCANYS) would like to acknowledge the efforts of community health centers (CHCs) across New York State in closing the health disparities gap by working tirelessly to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to quality and affordable primary and preventative care services regardless of ability to pay, insurance coverage, or immigration status.

“Our vision is that every New York State community has primary care that encompasses all aspects of each patient’s health and well-being. But that can’t happen until the inequities and institutional racism that exist in health care are recognized and eradicated,” said CHCANYS’ president and CEO Rose Duhan. “We need to honor and support the work of Black health care professionals and work to knock down the barriers to care that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color face not just this month - but every day - until those barriers no longer exist.”

The primary and preventive care that CHCs provide are vital, especially when there are stark and pervasive health disparities and inequities nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), racial and ethnic minority groups experience higher rates of illness and death across a wide range of health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and heart disease, as compared to their White counterparts. The COVID-19 pandemic has also disproportionately impacted racial and ethnic minorities – greatly exacerbating existing health disparities. Additionally, the Kaiser Family Foundation 2019 issue brief has found that nonelderly AIAN, Hispanic, NHOPI, and Black people remained more likely to lack health insurance than their White counterparts.

Community health centers are indispensable in the work to close the health disparities gap. Among CHC patients, 90% are low income, 68% are people of color, 13% are uninsured, and 59% are enrolled in Medicaid or Child Health Plus. Moreover, due to the pervasive structural inequities that CHC patients regularly encounter, they are at the highest risk for severe negative health consequences resulting, not only from COVID-19, but also from a lack of access to health care services generally. By providing critical primary and preventative care services regardless of ability to pay; insurance coverage; or immigration status, community health centers are the safety net for communities across NYS experiencing barriers and access to health care.

“As primary care providers, we have the responsibility to support underserved communities, address disparities and promote equity in our communities,” said Dr. LaVonne Ansari, CHCANYS’ Board Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Community Health Center of Buffalo, Inc. “To achieve health equity, we need real financial equity. Our communities have been divested for generations. It is time to prioritize communities of color and rural communities, in part by continuing to invest in community health centers and their patients.”

Eliminating health disparities and advancing health equity is a crucial component in realizing a future in which everyone can live full and healthy lives. Join CHCANYS in learning more about how to raise Black History Month awareness and sharing resources in the spirit of this year’s theme “Black Health and Wellness” by checking out the resources below.




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