February is Black History Month!

We celebrate and honor African American culture, icons, and accomplishments from throughout American history each February. “The celebration of Black History Month began as Negro History Week, which was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian, scholar, educator and publisher. It became a month-long celebration in 1976. The month of February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln”. (History.com) From this, Black History Month took off and has continued every year since.

Themes have been created to honor Black History Month, and to spread awareness about specific issues every year as well. The 2022 theme surrounds health and wellness in African American communities. Health and wellness is particularly timely, as we still find ourselves in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

Throughout American history – and highlighted by the pandemic – there have been/are obvious health disparities. One can argue that these disparities are driven from economic injustice, and the fact that many African Americans are essential workers having to work throughout the pandemic. The large portion of African Americans that do not have the privilege to work from home (e.g., healthcare workers) who are exposed to the Covid-19 virus consequently expose their families at higher rates.

In a recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, it was noted that Black workers make up about one in nine workers overall, but about one in six front-line-industry workers. This leads to greater exposure and disproportionate illness and deaths in African American families during the pandemic.

Due to economic injustices, these populations depend on their jobs to support their families. They can’t quit due to working conditions and health concerns. Wage gaps, household income, and number of household earners are all factors that contribute to this issue. Black women are more likely to be single heads of households; they continue to go to work to support their family, no matter the risk. (Click here for more information.)

Some jobs are not well paying and lack significant benefits. This may be reflected in the health insurance plan jobs may or may not offer, which circles back to health disparities. Without proper access to healthcare, one cannot be treated for their illnesses. This will contribute to more illnesses, less treatment options, and delay of care; this has been highlighted throughout the pandemic, but also documented in general with other illnesses throughout history.

As we think about Black History Month, we should continue to consider the health and wellness disparities that are present in the lives of African American people due to economic injustice in the United States. We should continue to educate, advocate, and promote positive change where and when we can.

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