health equity, POC Health Matters Monthly Feature, public health

POC Monthly Health Features

POCHM Monthly Features_Jasmine WestbrooksJasmine Westbrooks

Degree:Nutrition and Dietetics

Current university: Rosalind Franklin University

City: Sebring, FL

Business organizations: EatWell Exchange, Inc. & Wilkins and Westbrooks Nutrition Counseling, LLC

Areas of expertise: Wellness, community nutrition, nutrition education, diabetes education, and weight management

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african americans, diabetes, health equity, public health

#BlackHealthMatters: Diabetes

POC FebruaryThis week is Black Health and Heritage and month. While we, black people within the diaspora have a very rich culture and heritage, it is important that we preserve not only our heritage but also our health. Unfortunately there are many preventable disparities that afflict the health of our people. Preventable being the operative word, there are lifestyle and behavior changes that we can make individually in our lives and within the lives of our community to ensure not only a rich heritage but a heritage of health.

Diabetes is an epidemic among the African American community.  Approximately 4.9 million non-Hispanic African Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. While socioeconomic factors such as income and the food environment influences the prevalence of  diabetes; we can do small things to prevent the risk of developing diabetes and better management of the disease. As health advocates we can empower members of our communities to prepare healthier culturally appropriate meals. My personal belief is that while we need to move more, we really need to focus on our eating behaviors. Soul food LoveContrary to popular belief healthy soul food cooking is not an oxymoron. We can still in the proverbial terms put our foot in grandma’s classic collard green recipes while reaping the nutritional benefits. Check out a few of my favorite recipe books catered to Black/African Americans that you can share with your community members or church congregations: The New Soul Food Cookbook for People with Diabetes; Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family, Vegan Soul Kitchen, or Caribbean Vegan (disclaimer: I am a vegan, hence the two vegan cook books).

How are you contributing toward reducing the risk and prevalence of diabetes among Black/African Americans?

health equity, Health News, ICYMI, public health, Social Justice, Uncategorized

ICYMI: #BlackMothersMatterToo

POC Health Matters ICYMI


January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, however with all the news surrounding poor maternal health among black women and how black women are 243% more  likely to die during childbirth and post childbirth than white women, I found it appropriate to focus this month’s inaugural POC Health Matters ICYMI on black maternal health. After learning about the death of Shalon Irving, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employee’s death after giving birth to her daughter, my initial thoughts were that we just can’t seem to catch a break and how the American system seems so well designed to fail us in every aspect of our lives. Though appalled and quite frankly disgusted, the ingenious design of this “peculiar system” to continuously fail communities of color is the very reason why I chose a career in public health, what gave life to POC Health Matters, and what motivates me each and every day toward the improved health and well-being of our people and communities.

U.S. Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving’s Story Explains Why

In recent years, as high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. have alarmed researchers, one statistic has been especially concerning. According to the CDC, black mothers in the Shalon Irving StoryIIU.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.

That imbalance has persisted for decades, and in some places, it continues to grow. In New York City, for example, black mothers are 12 times more likely to die than white mothers, according to the most recent data; in 2001-2005, their risk of death was seven times higher. Researchers say that widening gap reflects a dramatic improvement for white women but not for blacks.

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health equity, public health, Social Justice

Building the Case for Health Equity

Principle of Health Disparities and Health EquityThe great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham Jail said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…whatever affects all directly affects all indirectly.” Though Dr. King was referring to the injustices of the 1960s Civil Rights Era, those same injustices are alive and present today. Police brutality and the unjust treatment of black and brown women and men in our court and prison industrial complex systems still run rampant. Yet we’ve come a long way and have even further (much further) to go in our quest for equality.

Though strides have been made since the Civil Rights Era, injustice, inequity and inequality are still very well embedded in America’s institutional and social fabric. These injustices have directly led to and continue to lead to poor health outcomes of some of our most vulnerable populations.  As the current administration seeks to make “America Great Again” (insert side-eye) and prohibit the CDC from using the following words: “vulnerable,” “entitlement”, “diversity”, “transgender,” ”fetus”, “evidenced-based” and “science-based” in the 2018 budget; I cannot help but pause to ask myself, “What’s really good?”

In my moment of pause, I found it important to write about (possibly a series of blog posts) on the topic of health disparities and inequities, specifically focused on the eight principles of health disparities and health inequity as described by Braveman et al. (2011).  But before moving into these eight principles lets go into a brief overview of health disparity, health inequities and distributive justice. Continue reading

health equity, POC Health Matters Monthly Feature, public health

POC Health Matters Monthly Features


Alexandria Washington, MPH, CHES
Florida A&M University
Tallahassee, FL
CEO Change the Narrative, LLC
Area of Expertise: Health Education, Health Policy and Food Justice

I come from a strong military family full of movers, shakers, and trailblazers. My family have been some of the few willing to answer the call of protecting our nation at all cost. Knowing that determination and resiliency that is ingrained in my DNA I have been determined to find a way protect our nation in my own sense. That is where I found my calling in public health. I am my brothers and my sister’s keepers and too often communities of color face disproportionate health burdens and outcomes. Systematically we face policies, stigmas, and prejudice designed to keep us in a state of need. This ultimately impacts our health whether directly or indirectly. I work to change that narrative by creating generational health through health education campaigns, blogging, and creating spaces for people of color to demand health justice.


Zsanai Epps, MPH, CHES
Morgan State University
Washington, D.C.
The Black Women’s Health Imperative
Research interests: health disparities, HIV/AIDS, reproductive and sexual health, and preventable chronic diseases

My interest in health was sparked by my personal experiences and my family history of chronic
conditions. Shortly after birth, I was considered a severe asthmatic. My mother suffered from severe asthma and then later on so would two of my brothers. As a child, I remember my maternal grandmother, checking her blood glucose level by pricking her finger and letting a drop of blood fall on a strip then inserting it into a machine. Later, I learned one of my uncles would also have to do the same thing as my grandmother. I observed these health conditions in my family and immediately wanted to know – how, why, and what could I do.

My family history helped to shape my interest and focus on health in not only my community but in other communities that look like mine. Through my undergraduate and graduate school training, I was able to explore chronic health conditions and expand my knowledge of how our environment influences our behaviors which can either protect us from developing these conditions or perpetuate them. I knew for sure that I wanted to focus on the health and wellness of Black women and pledged to enhance my life as well as other Black women.

Before joining the Black Women’s Health Imperative full-time, I interned here during both my undergraduate and graduate internship practicums. I had the opportunity to work on programs and initiatives that were developed and dedicated to the health and wellness of Black women and girls. I currently serve as the Project Coordinator for BWHI’s Change Your Lifestyle. Change Your Life. (CYL²) program, which uses lifestyle change strategies to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions such as heart disease and hypertension among those most at risk, specifically Black women.

3Camille Adrienne a.k.a “The Bougie Buhhda” MPH, RRT
Doctoral Candidate for Ph.D Mind-Body Medicine (Integrative Health and Wellness)
Florida A&M University
CEO Smudged Life LLC

Smudged life is a different kind of Zen. It is mindfulness dipped in melanin. It is the combination of Reiki, meditation, and life coaching infused with black culture. It is focused on balancing the chakras, clearing negative energy and educating the community on alternative healing techniques. I’ve built a program that will allow both adults and children to recognize their natural triggers emotionally, mentally and physically. Then be able to address them in a safe way. We advocate financial, physical, and mental health. Which is why we partner with several mental health counselors, nutritionist, financial advisors, yoga instructors and other professionals to create a complete experience. Healing hurts and going on that journey alone can be scary. I have committed my efforts to walk with my clients along the way of their personal spiritual/healing journey until they are able to manage their practice independently. It’s time for the black community to stop coping and start healing! Are you ready to start living the smudged life?