Black health care – and the lack of quality medical care in the U.S. – has been a hot topic as of late, one that I’m hoping will continue to trend and not just fade away. The spotlight on Black maternal health and the disparity in mortality rates compared to White women are just one recent example.
The challenge of securing access to quality health care outside of Black communities didn’t just begin. More than 100 years ago, finding health care in segregated states wasn’t easy. Because Blacks were not allowed to be treated in hospitals owned and operated by Whites. Not only were black patients not allowed in hospitals that were own and operated by whites but Black doctor were not allowed to treat in white hospitals. Though we live in a post-segregation society, there are still numerous of disparities that need to be addressed to improve outcomes for Black patients, including proximity to quality health care for people living in rural and underprivileged communities.
The historical disparities in health care forced entrepreneurs to establish separate medical centers for Black patients. One of those entrepreneurs who answered the need was Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, III, who opened Provident Hospital in Chicago in 1891, the first Black-owned hospital in the United States. Dr. Williams paved the way for other communities to open Black-owned hospitals, leading to the opening of more than 200 Black-owned hospitals in the U.S. But according to the AHA Guide to the Health Care Field, that number has drastically reduced to just one. Today, Howard University Hospital is the last Black-owned hospital still open. Even more sobering, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 5.7% of doctors are Black in the U.S.
Outside of Black-owned hospitals, there has been progress in other medical-service related professions, including Black-owned clinics and Black-owned medical spas, some of which are being opened by Black nurses. But in terms of hospital ownership, there is one glimmer of hope that may be the start of a resurgence in Black-owned hospitals.
In Dallas, Texas, one doctor has reportedly taken on the task in the revitalization of Forest Avenue Hospital, credited as being the first Black owned hospital in Dallas when it opened its doors in 1964. Jim Crow era policies persisted in the South during this period, when Black hospitals provided by Black doctors where much needed in segregated states. Unfortunately, after only 20 years the hospital shut down. The only remnants since its closure in 1984 are murals of the hospital’s founders, which where painted by students in 1978.
But after nearly 40 years, Forest Avenue Hospital appears to be on the verge of a revival.
Dr. Michelle Morgan reportedly purchased Forest Avenue Hospital in 2016. She hoped the redevelopment could help her hometown be less of a “medical desert,” pointing to a shortage of practicing physicians in her old hometown neighborhood.
South Dallas is an example of sprawling suburbs with a high population of low-income residents, limited public transportation, leaving the area’s residents with low access to quality health care; South Dallas is a microcosm of a larger issue.
For instance, Dallas Texas has the highest rates of chronic disease in the country. This is an unfortunate example of the disparities that persist in lower-income communities. South Dallas, a predominantly black community and its “medical desert” is a prime example of the disparities that one of the worlds riches countries shouldn’t have.
As I’ve said before, Black owned or not, everyone should have access to healthcare – not poor healthcare, quality healthcare! Racial disparities in the United States health care industry isn’t a new topic, and although there has been improvement in part by there being more dialogue, and in part due to the Affordable Care Act, there is still a huge disparity gap. Black maternal health and the disparity in mortality rates compared to White women, there are less than 6% of black doctors in the US, and I’ve reported on several other disparities in health like breast cancer, skin cancer, and mental health, just to name a few. like in General health, Only 4% of psychologists in the U.S. workforce were Black/African American.
I look forward to seeing areas like South Dallas transformed into a healthy communities that receive access to the quality health care that the community deserves. By revitalizing a historical medical facilities Dr. Michelle Morgan is taking an important step forward in filling the gap in access to health care, that also preserves important remnants of Black history. Some of the black history in America that is too often neglected or as of recent, in attempts of being removed altogether.
Falisha McGee is Associate Editor of BNN. She is an activist and burgeoning journalist who is passionate about the progress of Black Americans. She is also an avid supporter of Black women’s health and well-being. She can be reached at Falisha@BLKNewsNow.com.