Healthcare Inequalities

By TaTyana Wilson

HAMPTON, Va. – The new era of Civil Rights is in healthcare and inequalities, according to Dr. L.D. Britt, Chair of Surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School. The former President of the American College of Surgeons addressed the many healthcare disparities facing the nation today at the 41st annual Black Family Conference at Hampton University.

"The reason why this is important is because by 2050, America's population will be majority people of color," said Britt.

Britt is working to confront these problems head on and change the healthcare industry. He received a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of health to fund his national research into healthcare disparities.

"Forty-five thousand people die every year because they do not have health insurance," said Britt.

Fifty-nine percent of of black people live in the top 10 southern states that do not offer the Medicare expansion plan, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

In addition to living in areas that do not offer Medicare, individuals of color are more likely to be working in low-wage jobs and industries that do not offer health coverage, according the Kaiser Family Foundation.

There is a direct correlation between the lack of health insurance and life expectancy.

There is a 20-year difference in life expectancy between people living in parts of the country with the most wealth and highest education levels, compared to those living in poor, uneducated regions, according to a study published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

These studies show that it is difficult for minorities to have a healthy life expectancy without access to adequate healthcare. And, those with lower incomes are less likely to be able to afford health insurance, which further reduces access to healthcare.

This year's Black Family Conference focused on "Adding Years to Your Life and Life to Your Years." According to community members and faculty, the opening session had the greatest impact and it really set the tone for the rest of the conference.

"I wish that more people would've come out," said Eumeka Taylor, Co-chair of the planning committee for the conference. "Because I believe everyone could've benefited from that speech."

Facing racism, black women seek child birthing options

By Paige Giffon

Jessica Lipscomb, 29, was washing dishes when she felt a large contraction. She had been having contractions for a couple days but this one was different. Her husband, Matt, quickly rushed her, not to a hospital as they had with their first child, but to the Charleston Birth Place to have a water birth, where she spent the final stages of labor in a birthing pool and delivered into the water.

Women, particularly women of color, are increasingly opting out of hospital births and choosing alternative options like giving birth at home with doulas or midwives to help. The main reason is that black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women, according to the Center for Disease Control.

While Lipscomb had no major issues when she gave birth to her first child in a hospital, she became familiar with the statistics and wanted a more natural experience with her second child. In 2014, 98.5% of births in the United States were in a hospital.

"Women's bodies were made to do this without intervention," Lipscomb said.

The United States is one of 13 countries where the maternal mortality rate is worse than it was 25 years ago. Maternal mortality is when a mother dies during pregnancy, childbirth, or in the immediate postpartum month as a result of complications from pregnancy or birth.

Pre-eclampsia is a condition characterized by high blood pressure that can damage the organs, lead to seizures and harm the baby. Black women are 60% more likely than white women to have the condition, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. This condition can be caused by continual physical and toxic stress to the body, the very kinds of stresses experienced by black women.

Richard Davis, a neonatologist at the University of Illinois of Chicago, has studied the correlation of black mothers and mortality rates for decades. He has found that racial discrimination is a key factor.

"It's hard to find any aspect of life that's not impacted by racial discrimination," he said. "Whether you're talking about applying for a job, purchasing a car, finding housing, getting an education, earning the same amount of money...If you're black, you tend to get less pay."

Lipscomb says she has experienced prejudice and discrimination based on her skin color. The first time, she was about 12 years old training for a cross-country meet in her neighborhood when a white man drove by in a truck and shouted "nigger."

This kind of atmosphere of systematic racism and sexism results in "weathering," a process in which women's bodies are physically worn down by constant stress, according to Dr. Arline Geronimus of the University of Michigan.

"When controlling for income and education, African-American women had the highest measurement of stress-associated body chemicals, higher than white women and black men," Geronimus concluded in a 2006 study.

This discrimination spills over into maternity care, where a third of black women report some level of discrimination from doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, according to a 2017 NPR article titled How Racism may cause Black Mothers to Suffer the Death of Their Infants. Even after birth, the stresses continue.

"We feel the need to be everything for everyone and forget about ourselves," Lipscomb said.

"Particularly in the postpartum part of parenthood, when we're giving all of our energy to this one new soul. No one is taking care of us."

Reducing stress during the birth has a calming effect that resonates through the postpartum period, Lipscomb said. She said a water birth was far better than giving birth in a hospital.

During the hospital birth of her first child, Lipscomb felt doctors were more focused on the baby. Three out of four times doctors came to her room, they were there to check on the baby, not her, said Lipscomb, who believes maternity care is just as important as the physical health of the baby.

"Our mental state, our physical state, our emotional state are not being taken seriously and I blame hospitals for that," she said. "Midwives are there to support both the mother and child, and doulas are specifically there for the mother."

Lipscomb had two midwives, trained medical professionals who focus on promoting natural birth. Doulas are birthing coaches, there mainly to give emotional and physical support to mothers. Doulas tend to extend their care, sometimes for weeks after the birth. Mothers form strong bonds with these caregivers.

"Women are simply not aware of their options," she said. "They take the word of the hospital and go with that."

Lipscomb's labor lasted eleven hours and thirty minutes before she gave birth to her second boy via water birth. There were with no complications and she felt much more comfortable and "more liberated."

When she gets pregnant with her third child, she plans a home birth. She also wants to become a doula herself. Until then she wants to spread the word about options for expecting mothers.

"Until the system changes to protect us," she said, "We have to protect ourselves."

Hampton U. students battle allergies and flu-like illness

By Montana S. Crider, Kelsey Crimiel and Atira Kennedy

HAMPTON, Virginia – With drastic, day-by-day changes in the weather, it has been hard for Hampton University students to stay healthy. The high-to-low temperatures are leaving no one safe from flu-like symptoms.

"The weather is so bipolar here that I do get sick or close to being sick more than when I'm at home," said Deja Young, a nursing major from Chicago.

However, with higher-than-normal pollen counts in our area, students may just be suffering from allergies.

It is important to know the symptoms of either case, so it can easily be taken care of. Seasonal allergies usually consist of a runny nose, and red, watery, itchy eyes, making a person feel as if they have a cold. The flu, however, has more harsh symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue.

"It's the major weather change; one day it's hot the next day its cold," said Megan Hill, a MPH certified health education specialist. "The plants are confused."

The seasons are mixing up and flowers are starting to bloom early. Also, individuals react to the weather differently so that can affect when people start to get their allergy symptoms.

A few students said they know they suffer from allergies, but do not necessarily take care of them. Yes, it is not as harmful as passing on the common cold, but can still affect those around you.

"I know it's just allergies, so I am letting it run its course," said Emani Smith, a freshman nursing major from Fredericksburg, Virginia.

"My prescription is a strong medicine that helps because without it, I basically feel sick," said Ebony Grieves, a five-year MBA major from Chicago.

Victoria Daniels, a journalism major from Raleigh, North Carolina said, "I have asthma so allergies really send me over the cliff. "I had the flu three weeks ago and everything was elevated. It was all bad."

Although allergies are not contagious, germs are still being spread from sneezing and coughing. Furthermore, infections can occur if not treated properly.

On the other hand, the flu hits the body hard. A few Hampton students have been sent to the hospital because of the virus. Some try to stick it out, but it is too much for the body.

"I felt like I was hit by a bus. I have never felt that weak," said Gibril Ghee, a sophomore from Atlanta. "If I did not go to the hospital, I don't know what would have happened."

Waiting without the proper care, the flu can do a lot of damage, so be sure to find out how to stop it before it gets worse. Use the resources around campus, such as the health center, or even local establishments.

"I didn't have time to go to the campus health center, so I had to go to Sentara," said Morgan Harris, a junior accounting major from Hartford, Connecticut. "Luckily, I didn't have the flu, but I did have a fever that could have gotten worse."

For those that have not gotten sick or experienced any of the symptoms above, stay ahead and take precaution. Dress according to weather, takes vitamins and/or medicines that will build your immune system, a personal favorite being Emergen-C.

"I think Allegra D works the best because it unstops my nose and I can breathe and my eyes don't water as much," said Chardae Ashanti, a psychology major from Columbus, Ohio.

Health education specialist Hill advised "hand washing. Don't rub your eyes. Keep your hands away from your face, and stay hydrated." She also stated that you should be aware of your allergy symptoms so you know the difference between seasonal allergies and an actual cold virus.

Talk to your doctor, or take a visit to the health center if you feel yourself coming down with any symptoms that present themselves as a cold or flu or allergies. Schedule an appointment to learn more about how to protect ourselves during the rest of this flu season.

Students can utilize the campus health center which can be reached at 757-727-5315, or any of the Urgent Care clinics in the Hampton Roads area.

The writers are students in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Stroke awareness defined at Hampton U. symposium

By Kayla Boone

Before you finish reading this article, two people will have already had a stroke.

A stroke happens every 40 seconds and every four minutes someone dies, according to the American Heart Association.

On Friday, March 18, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. in the Student Center, Hampton University spread awareness about this issue. The School of Science hosted a Stroke Awareness symposium that featuring guest speakers that included Dr. Yolanda Rainey, Dr. Wolfgang Leesch, Dr. Dorian Wilkerson, Willie Leftwich of Willie's Way Foundation and Marcus Fitch from the American Heart Association.

Rainey is an associate professor at Hampton University in the department of Physical Therapy. She has over 35 years of experience as a licensed physical therapist. She specializes in direct patient care, rehabilitation management and has over 15 years of experience in physical therapy education. Rainey along with the other speakers focused on t000he importance of being medically aware focusing on stroke awareness.

Strokes are the No. 5 cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the United States according to the National Stroke Association. A stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to the brain. They occur when the blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to the brain are blocked. When this happens brain cells are robbed of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke muscles and memory controlled by that part of the brain are lost. The affect a stroke has on a person depends on where in the brain the stroke occurred and how much of the brain is damaged.

Each year approximately 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke. Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by identifying and responding to stroke risk factors.

The symposium was a part of the two-day, 38th Annual Black Family Conference, titled "Full STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math] Ahead: Healthy Minds and Bodies Securing our Future."

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Hampton proton therapy patient stories: Their treatment, their experiences.

By Miah Harris

In a changing world, most can say that they have a story, but only few can say they beat the disease that doctors are constantly trying to cure. Cancer is one word that, nine times out of 10, makes an individual go through a cycle of continuous pondering and extensive assessment. Some may wonder how their legacy will continue on or how long it will take to complete their bucket list, but one immediate and common thought for any patient is the possibility to not live longer than intended.

In other words, cancer is one of those things that scream "death threat." Although these are concerns to think about and plan for, survivors like Deborah Owens (pictured right), of Chesapeake, Va., will reassure that there are more than a few options for hopeful recovery and survival.

"I am a busy mother of three girls," she said. "I wanted to be able to see my daughters grow up. I wanted to be able to witness all their milestones. I researched proton therapy and when I saw the experience and expertise of the physicians and staff at the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, I began to feel at ease." Owens battled with a brain tumor.

Proton therapy at the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute stands as one of the most innovative approaches when it comes to treating cancer patients. Since the Institute's launch in 2005, President William R. Harvey has made this an annual and ongoing project. HUPTI's ultimate mission is to give complete cancer care in order to save the lives of potential survivors. According to general information from their available online website, this establishment ensures that they are "committed to furthering these advancements by providing the most up-to-date, effective technologies available to our patients and the entire cancer community."

Medical Director Christopher Sinesi, MD said, "Thanks to the vision and perseverance of Dr. Harvey, the driving force behind the center since its inception, Hampton Roads has joined a small, elite group of cities that offers this vitally important cancer therapy."

Along with 15 other operating institutions in the country and those in construction and development, HUPTI has serviced thousands of patients with numbers rising annually. Some of the alternative and successful facilities include: MD Anderson Cancer Center's Proton Center (Houston), Mayo Clinic Proton Beam Therapy Program (Rochester, Minn. ) Ackerman Cancer Center (Jacksonville, Fla.), Willis-Knighton Health System (Shreveport, La.), Scripps Proton Therapy Center (San Diego ), SCCA Proton Therapy and A ProCure Center (Seattle).

As a result of Harvey's hard work and consistent dedication, many patients have overcome this brutal disease and have publically shared their stories via online. Oral cancer survivor of 2013, Jenica Harrison of Richmond, Va. says, "At the IMRT (Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy) center, I felt like I was just another patient to them, not a unique individual. However, I felt welcomed and cared for from the moment I first stepped into HUPTI."

Other cancer patients who shared their stories were males who, in addition to proper treatment, were able to find "the good" in cancer. Donald Sherard, prostate cancer survivor from Chesapeake, Va. says, "After speaking with the doctors at the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, we were both convinced that proton therapy was the right choice for me. I was amazed that I didn't have any side effects during the process. My insurance covered the treatment. I didn't have any out-of-pocket expenses. Proton therapy helped me maintain my active lifestyle and actually brought my wife and I closer together."

Taking extra time away from the job is also something that causes patients to become discouraged and potentially depressed because of inconsistent income. With new technology like proton therapy, patients are able to live their normal lives with minor setbacks. David Lum, 4-year prostate cancer survivor from Williamsburg, Va. said, "I went to work every day during my treatment with no side effects. I am so happy I met these great people at the HUPTI."

In addition to cautious and extreme care, HUPTI encourages and applauds each survivor by ringing a large completion bell in celebration of their completed journey or graduation from the institute. This ensures that the institute's main goal is to treat their patients correspondingly, but to influence positivity, encouragement, and be an overall support system until time sees otherwise. HUPTI is on a mission to save as many lives as possible, just one proton at a time.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Experts at Hampton U. urge risk control for heart attack, stroke

By Malik Jones

This year's Black Family Conference theme was healthcare within the African-American community. Hampton University professors and established experts in medical and pharmaceutical fields came together to inform students and the community of the different health risks plaguing blacks and minorities across the country. In the panel titled, "Risk Control for Heart Attack and Stroke," Assistant Professors David Ombengi and Hua Ling gave the audience tips on how to prevent diseases such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, and how to take charge and responsibility for one's own health. First and foremost, what exactly is diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of medical conditions that cause dangerously high levels of blood glucose. This can result in the damage, dysfunction, and failure of major organs such as the eyes, kidneys, heart, brain, and nerves. If left untreated, diabetics could be forced to lose their extremities such as arms and legs when they lose feeling in them due to nerve damage.

Diabetics, said the presenters, are also at a much higher risk for heart attacks and strokes. Depending on the type of diabetes, a person may be deficient in insulin, which works to keep our blood sugar levels from going to high. Without this hormone, glucose levels will rise and build up in the bloodstream, creating blockage. When blood flow is disrupted, necessary oxygen cannot get to the heart or brain resulting in these major and life-threatening malfunctions.

In a 2013 study on the leading causes of death within the United States, diabetes placed seventh with over 75,000 cases in the U.S. alone. 65 percent of people with diabetes are likely to die from heart attack or stroke. This disease is especially prevalent within minority communities. Poor socioeconomic status can have more detrimental effects than what schools people go to or what jobs they have. It can also have a huge impact on their health. Less access to quality care facilities, inability to afford healthier foods, and access to medical insurance are all risk factors that can have a negative domino effect on a person's health.

However, as Ombengi explained, "Diabetes is not a death sentence; it is treatable and preventable."

Some risk factors that people can control include: blood pressure and blood sugar levels, smoking/alcohol consumption, and exercise habits. Not many life-threatening diseases can be prevented before they occur. Diabetes can be by simply staying vigilant over what people eat and how much they stay active. Having a game plan for health is important and could just save lives before it's ever a risk.

Hua Ling talked more in depth about risks surrounding the heart, specifically looking at the warning signs of Heart Disease and Stroke.

The term Atherosclerosis describes the buildup of fat deposits, or plaque, within the coronary arteries. This plaque is the result of fatty, sugary foods, which then builds up and stiffens the artery walls, making blood flow increasingly difficult. Researchers now know that plaque deposits can begin as early as 2-years-old. Once in the system, plaque cannot be removed. This realization only emphasizes the need for balanced nutrition and exercise at a young age.

Symptoms of heart disease may not be obvious for a very long time. There could be some minor chest pain similar to that of a muscle ache. However, if the pain intensifies and people do not seek treatment, this could lead to serious consequences and even sudden death.

In the 2013 study on the leading causes of death in the U.S., heart disease led the pack with roughly 611,105 cases.

Stroke came in at No. 5 with 128,978 cases. 85 percent of all strokes are Ischemic strokes. This is caused when plaque builds in an artery, the blood clots together, and oxygen is cut off from that part of the brain, similar to Atherosclerosis in the heart.

Ling highlighted tips for spotting a stroke, including: drooping facial features or an inability to smile, inability to hold arms outstretched, and slurred or difficult speech. These signs indicate that some portion of the brain is currently being affected and the normal nerve signals are being disrupted. The faster you can identify the problem and seek treatment, the less permanent damage may be done to the brain.

So now the question becomes, "What can we do to prevent all these health problems?" The answer is to reduce all the things that put bodies at risk. Monitor cholesterol levels, diet, exercise, and see a physician regularly to evaluate your progress and get more information. Americans can all take charge of their lives and health, one person, one family, and one community at a time.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Plate adjustment as diabetes prevention, says expert

By Rachel Parks

Thirty million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes, and one-third of them are undiagnosed and untreated, said Mack Bonner, co-chair of Hampton Roads Community Outreach for the American Diabetes Association.

Diabetes, Bonner told 40 people gathered in the Student Center Ballroom, has a higher prevalence in blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans. There are 80 million people living with pre-diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic illness marked by inadequate insulin amounts and/or insulin effects resulting in an excess amount of glucose in blood. Diabetes is a vascular disease, with two types. Type 1 diabetes means the individual cannot produce insulin, and Type 2 diabetes result from the individual's environment, i.e., fatty foods, not enough exercise, and the body needs protection from insulin.

Diabetes can be prevented by dieting, weight loss, exercise and cardio to lower insulin resistance, and calorie reduction. Another prevention strategy is the "plate" method": Half of your plate green vegetables, one quarter starches and one quarter lean meats.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communication.

Diabetes testing and prevention urged at Hampton U. conference

By Dominique Burns

A medical breakthrough has occurred due to the different methods of measuring blood sugar in diabetes patients, said a presenter Thursday at the 37th annual Hampton University Black Family Conference.

Glucose meters, strips and needles are many ways that diabetes patients measure their levels today. With the help of technology it has been made easier for patients with diabetes to keep track of their eating habits and to stay healthy.

Mack Bonner, the morning segment presenter, highlighted an important moment in the past history of diabetes when a question arose from the crowd. Now, doctors can measure sugar intake as well as the level of diabetes through urine. Instead of medical instruments and needles, tools have been made to test urine on glucose testing strips. These strips are used today and have been made more efficient for diabetes patients.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Diabetes soared 43 percent in 8 years, said expert at Hampton U.

By Ashlee Brown

Type 2 diabetes in America has increased 43 percent since 2007, and has been common in children as young as age 10, said a health expert Wednesday at the opening of the 37th Hampton University Black Family Conference.

Griffin P. Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, told the conferees, "The Centers for Disease Control estimated that by 2050, 50 million Americans will have diabetes. Although, many people tend to overlook the illness, it is still a serious matter."

Rodgers explained the difference between Type 1 diabetes – previously known as juvenile onset – and Type 2 diabetes, called adult onset. Type 1 is usually diagnosed in children and adolescents.

"In this case, he said, "the body's immune system turns against the cells and the pancreas that are producing insulin for unclear reasons, which causes the body to lose its' ability to generate insulin. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented if dieting and exercising become an element in everyday lives, because obesity is a major factor, Rodgers added.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, also known as GDM, is a form of high blood sugar that commonly affects women during pregnancy. Rodgers said that women who have a history of this disorder have a 70-percent greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, rather than women who haven't had a history of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.

This disease affects at least 7 percent or up to 18 percent of U.S pregnancies, said Rodgers.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Diabetes control focus of Hampton U. Black Family conference

By Kayla Johnson

On Wednesday, March 18, Hampton University will kick off the 37th Annual Conference on the Black Family.

This year's conference is hosted by the School of Pharmacy and the theme is "Controlling Diabetes: A Call to Action for Minority Families." The focus is on the problem of diabetes, heath disparities and diabetes management in communities.

"Our Dean would like for Hampton University's School of Pharmacy to become a leading pharmacy school to specialize in diabetes research and medications in the future and that is why this theme was selected," said Tiffany Hatcher of Alabama, a 2017 Doctorate of Pharmacy Candidate.

Wednesday night the conference begins with an opening ceremony and will be followed on Thursday with a series of panels, roundtables and luncheons. The last day of the conference will be held on Friday, March 20, with a closing luncheon featuring keynote speaker Rear Admiral Pamela Schweitzer.

Schweitzer currently serves as the chief pharmacy professional officer of the U.S. Public Health Service and assistant surgeon general. As chief pharmacy professional officer, Schweitzer is responsible for providing leadership and coordination of Public Health Service pharmacy programs and professional affairs for the Office of the Surgeon General and the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Due to her experience in the world of pharmacy and her federal government perspective, she is more than qualified to speak on this year's theme and the federal government's initiative 'Healthy People2020'," said Hatcher.

When asked if she would be attending the Conference on the Black Family, Margie Merritt, a junior strategic communications major, said, "Yes, I definitely am. Diabetes is very prominent in the African-American community so to have a conference focusing on something so crucial is great. It gives African-Americans the opportunity for open discussion on something that should be talked about a lot more."

The Annual Conference on the Black Family was formed when Hampton University President William R. Harvey saw a need for a consistent and formal dialogue to discuss important issues concerning the black family. The event has been serving the Hampton University community as well as the local community since 1978.

To register online for The 37th Annual Conference on the Black Family, visit or call 757.727.5071.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

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