Q. How long have you been a member of the Black Health Network, and what drew you to CBHN?
Equal medical care is not enough to end disparities in health outcomes and achieve health equity for all people of color. It takes elevating care experience, continuing to build trust, creating culturally responsive care, and establishing best practices that can be shared across the healthcare community. Joining the Black Health Network this year was an opportunity to partner with an organization whose mission is to highlight the inequities that permeate in many aspects of our society and advocate for change.
Q. What is your current profession?
Throughout my career as a nurse and executive, I have gravitated toward mission-driven organizations that embody innovation, social responsibility, person-centered care, Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity (EID), and invest in the communities they serve. Searching for an organization that demonstrated those key aspects ultimately brought me back to California where I joined an organization that believes everyone has a right to good health.
As the Senior Vice President and Area Manager for Kaiser Permanente in the Central Valley, I am proud to be a servant leader within an organization that is focused on providing high-quality, culturally responsive care so our members can achieve the best possible health outcomes.
Q. From your perspective, what barriers exist in achieving health equity for Black Californians?
Black people are more likely to face social and economic challenges that adversely impact health, including higher rates of poverty and food insecurity. Disparities among Black Americans include higher rates of chronic conditions, shorter life expectancy, higher maternal and infant mortality rates, and lower screening rates for cancer and heart disease. Longstanding significant disparities in health and health care are directly related to the social determinants of health such as poverty, income inequality, wealth inequality, and food security. These disparities are mostly determined by a lack in the distribution of money, power, and resources in black communities creating environments with inadequate access to healthy food choices, subpar education systems, and safety and security, among other resources.
We need policies and resources to support more black healthcare professionals. Black people represent over 6 percent of California’s population; however we only represent 3.2 percent of California’s physicians. The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color in the United States underscored the reality that when it comes to population health, we still have major work to do to achieve health equity. We need a more diverse workforce, community leaders, policymakers, community leaders with the right experiences, skills, cultural diversity, and linguistic capabilities to meet the needs of our communities and to create health equity.
Q. Both in your work and with CBHN, how have you been able to prioritize the health of Black Californians?
Inequality impacts wealth, education, employment, housing, mobility, and health. At Kaiser Permanente, our community work is central to our mission. Through our community health grants, we support inclusive economic growth, which is critical to both individual and community health.
During the pandemic, we supported Faith in the Valley to conduct outreach and share information with several faith-based partners within our communities.
We support the African American Chamber of Commerce of San Joaquin County in their efforts to advocate, develop, and promote ethnic and minority-owned businesses. Our support has assisted the Chamber in supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs of color by offering training, mentoring, counseling, technical support, and professional development services to mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic and to help prevent small business closures due to loss of revenue, business marketing, and lack of technological skills or resources.
For another year we are ecstatic to partner with Improve your Tomorrow (IYT) and fund their College Academy programs in Modesto and Tracy that work to increase the number of young men of color to attend and graduate from colleges and universities.
Q. What inspires you to keep doing the work you do?
I’m inspired by black joy — a conscious intentional act of choosing joy to heal from the pain of social and economic injustices related to our lives being subjugated and our freedoms regulated. Joy radiates through me as I honor my ancestors, challenge stereotypes, and encourage the transformation of our society through our youth. Developing and inspiring our youth to seize possibilities and undertake their responsibility to transcend beyond “what was.”
Our youth are the leaders and workforce of tomorrow, and many are challenged today by violence, intergenerational transmission of poverty, educational disadvantage, gender discrimination, and societal stereotypes. We must constantly remind them that they are the key to leading the future and closing the gaps we experience with health disparity. Our youth have grown up in a digitally interconnected world and demonstrate a technological sophistication that enables them to relate to the world, new ideas, information, and innovation. If we invest and mentor our youth and young adults, we have the privilege to influence generations to come, and help them to become the problem-solvers, entrepreneurs, and change agents of the coming decades.