February marks Black History Month, celebrating the rich heritage and contributions of Black individuals while emphasizing the ongoing quest for equality. In healthcare, this month is an opportunity to address persistent disparities affecting Black communities.

Despite progress, health disparities do still exist among Black communities. Black individuals face barriers to healthcare, with 14% not seeing a doctor during the whole year in 2021 compared to 9% of White individuals. Food insecurity affected 12% of Black adults, which tripled that of white adults in 2021 (Artiga & Ndugga, 2023).  

“Ongoing racism, discrimination, police violence, and gun violence severely impact Black well-being, leading to mental health disparities and increased health needs” (Artiga & Ndugga, 2023). Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) such as poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, discrimination, and lack of education contribute to these challenges.

Community Health Workers (CHWs) serve as unsung heroes, playing a vital role in dismantling barriers that impede health equity in Black communities. Their on-the-ground presence fosters trust, offering culturally competent support and education that resonates within underserved populations. By addressing the root causes of health disparities, CHWs empower individuals to navigate complex healthcare systems, make informed decisions, and access vital resources. Their impact goes above and beyond immediate health outcomes, extending to the base of communities as they advocate for change, raise health literacy, and bridge the divide between healthcare organizations and the people they serve. As we acknowledge the importance of CHWs during Black History Month, let’s amplify their voices and support their key contributions to building healthier, more equitable communities for all.

Examining SDOH reveals stark disparities in poverty. In New Hampshire, 19.8% of Black residents live in poverty- three times the rate of White residents. Per capita income disparities persist, with Black residents earning about 53 cents for every dollar earned by White residents (NH Fiscal Policy Institute, 2023).

Food insecurity disproportionately affects non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic households in New Hampshire, with nearly 23% of Black people experiencing it- two and a half times the rate of White people. The causes include racism, low wages, and unemployment (America’s Health Rankings, 2022).  

Unemployment exacerbates health disparities among Black communities, with a 6% rate compared to the national average of 3.5%. Despite recovery, Black individuals and Latinos had about 12% fewer jobs in June 2020 compared to February 2020 (NPR, 2023). As we honor Black History Month, let’s address SDOH and promote equity. CHWs, as frontline public health professionals, can lead the way. Through advocacy for community-based programs and policies, we can collectively strive for improved health outcomes and advance health equity for vulnerable populations impacted by racism and segregation.