Feb 7, 2022
Celebrating Black History Month is a strong reminder of those who have paved the path toward equity and inclusion as well as the work that still needs to be done to ensure racial equity in the future. This year’s theme, Black Health and Wellness, casts a special light on the racial inequities in the healthcare arena.
Black Health and Wellness not only includes one’s physical body, but also emotional and mental health. Social factors, including economic disadvantage, inequities in education, and lack of access to care, impact a person’s ability to lead a healthy and productive life. Due to racial segregation, the majority of African American areas are more likely to lack hospitals and other health care providers.
According to the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. They are also less likely to seek help. Statistics indicate that about 25% of African Americans seek mental health care compared to 40% of whites.
When seeking mental health support, it is not easy for Black Americans to find a therapist who looks and acts like them. According to the American Psychiatric Association, Black Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet of the estimated 41,000 psychiatrists in the country, only two percent are Black.
While this is a snapshot of how Black Americans’ health care is affected by racial inequities, it is important to note that public sector HR professionals are on the front lines of providing health care options to employees. For Black public sector HR professionals, it can be difficult to reach out for the help they may need while also providing resources to their Black employees. This has become especially challenging over the last few years with experiencing both the pandemic that has disproportionately impacted people of color and dealing with the racial injustices that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Here are actions that can be taken right now to improve racial equity:
- Educate yourselves about racial equity issues affecting health care.
- Develop policies, programs and practices that support the employees’ physical, social, familial, mental, and financial well-being which allow employees to bring their best selves to work.
- Take a leading role in ensuring employees are well-informed about their benefits that provide access to health care and self-care.
- Reach out to Black Community Organizations to gain input on health care issues that your Black employees face.
Follow IPMA-HR during February on social media as we provide resources that help support public sector HR professionals as they support racial equity in the workplace and salute Black health care providers that have surpassed boundaries in racial inequities to ensure equitable health care access for all.
Black Lives Matter.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”- Audre Lorde, a Black, civil rights activist.
Cara Woodson Welch