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Category: Health Disparities Articles

by Brianna Ford

December 09, 2015

Decisions, Decisions: Sexual Health Education or Mental Health

Public Health Education is such a broad field of study, with a vast selection of areas to choose from. There’s tobacco, global health, epidemiology, climate change and a host of others. Out of these various topics, I find myself drawn to a few that seem to peak my interest: Sexual/Reproductive Health education, Domestic Violence, and Suicide/Depression. I haven’t decided exactly which area I want to focus on after graduation, but I have tried to educate myself on these topics.

My interest in Sexual Health came about in my Human Sexuality class that I took my first semester in the Health Education department. At first I only took it because I just need another health elective to take and didn’t think anything of it. We discussed so many things in that short amount of time and I was hooked ever since. My professor has been very influential in my decision to teach sexual health education.


On the weekend of November 21st, I had the privilege to volunteer at the 10th Annual Teen Talk Lock-In for the Wake County Health Department. It was an all night, interactive sexual health education workshop for teens. The key areas of focus were attitude & mindset, healthy lifestyles, and access to resources. They had 5 workshops on building positive and healthy relationships, coping and looking forward to positive outcomes, what love is and how to communicate your love to others, understanding your body inside and out, respecting different lifestyles and identities, and also the importance of Sexual Health Education and HIV/STI testing. I was able to go from session to session with the kids and observe the different speakers, my professor being among them. Seeing them interact with this age group, 12 to 17 year olds, further convinced me that I need to do sexual health education. I would like to further help in the fight to make sex a normal thing to talk about in everyday conversation.

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I was appointed Chair of the 2nd Annual Women’s Empowerment Program for our Department of Health Education at North Carolina Central University. The purpose of this year’s program was to increase awareness of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and its correlation to HIV incidence among college women, through education, empowerment, and condom usage. The goal of the program was to empower young college women to RESPECT themselves in order to PROTECT themselves from HIV. Our keynote speaker and founder of Healing after Domestic Violence (HAD). Her story was so powerful, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The program targeted 18 to 24 females on campus. Being in the city of Durham, the young ladies on campus are bound to meet and maybe even start relationships with boys on campus as well as from the surrounding areas. For many of these girls, it is their first time away from home, without direct supervision, and they are likely to take advantage of that. Unfortunately for them, not everyone they deal with will have their best intentions at heart. What can start out as a sweet and loving relationship, can go really south, really fast. The program highlighted signs of domestic violence and where to seek help. There were also booths set up, by myself and my fellow Public Health Associates, showcasing different Social Marketing campaigns focused on Intimate Partner Violence. Resources that are available on campus also had booths set up.


In my research class, we had to choose a health topic to do research on. Normally, I would chose HIV/AIDS, but this time I did suicide and depression, focusing on African American women. I was very surprised that it was hard to find almost any articles on my target population. I’m talking about hours and hours of searching for an article even remotely focusing on depression or suicide in African American women. It was alarming to me, and made me think why no one had decided to do any research on this underserved population, in this regard. As a part of the aforementioned population, I personally know that depression is real in the African American community. There is also a stigma attached to it. I’ve heard people say “Black people don’t get depressed. That’s only crazy white people. Just get over it.” What people don’t realize is that downplaying anyone’s feelings of depression is not helping them at all, and possibly even worsening it, leading them to suicide. If I were to choose this as my final area of focus, I would definitely want to go into research regarding African American women and teenagers.


I wasn’t sure how Public Health Education was going to work out for me when I first transferred to the department, but I soon found my place. I chose to focus on these topics for various reasons. I know people who don’t know how some STIs are transmitted and don’t know how to use condoms properly. I know others who have been in abusive relationships, not even realizing that they were in one, and not want help trying to leave the person. That hurt me, that as their friend, they didn’t want me trying to help them. I, myself, struggle with my own depression, and dealing with it. There is always someone who needs public health education and resources, and as a future health educator, I am working hard so that one day I can help others with their problems.

Follow @myhealthimpact on health and tech stories impacts #youngppl. #publichealth #mentalhealth #sexualhealth


by Geard Fossett

July 15, 2015

Access to Health – A Privilege - and Two Brothers Planning to Collaborate

When I was growing up, eating healthy and physical fitness was something that was talked about fairly often in my household. I played sports throughout my childhood and remained very active. And for the most part, this was the case for everyone in my family. I always had access to a gym, fresh fruits and vegetables. Having the ability to eat healthy is a luxury, and I never really realized how much of a privilege it was until I was exposed to some statistics. “A recent multistate study found that low-income census tracts had half as many supermarkets as wealthy tracts. Another multistate study found that eight percent of African Americans live in a tract with a supermarket, compared to 31 percent of whites” (Bell). I would love to say that a statistic like this really stands out but it doesn’t at all. Minorities, particularly African-Americans, as a community, are extremely disadvantaged when it comes to healthcare as compared to their white counterparts.


When I first began to understand the notion of health disparities, I was intrigued and motivated. Why should citizens of the United States already a decade and a half into the twenty first century not have access to supermarkets close to their places of residence? Over time, I have realized that this is something I would like to change. Closely approaching my senior year of college, I have had the privilege of completing two ethnographic studies that examine pharmacy and supermarket access as well as examining health related racial disparities. Both of these studies examined the neighborhood of East Liberty in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which according to 2013 census data is around 74% Black/African-American.

I feel so personally invested in the discussion of healthcare disparities and healthcare equality for all because I identify with the Black/African-American community. After college ,I would like to further my knowledge on these subjects by pursuing my Masters degree in public health. I believe my future education will give me not only the tools and resources to think of potential solutions to my community’s problems but also allow me to work with other like-minded individuals.

One of the like-minded individuals I hope to work with in the future is Marcel Souffrant. Marcel and I went to high school together and have been close friends since around 2011. He is currently planning to attend medical school following graduation from college in the spring of 2016. In a true collaborative effort, I believe we can both help craft potential solutions to these healthcare disparities that currently plague the Black/African-American community. Two Black/African- American men working together to create solutions to these chronic issues is something I am really beginning to like the sound of.   Follow the journey along at @myhealthimpact for this, other health-tech topics and voices of young people like me and Marcel.

Bell, Judith, Gabriella Mora, Erin Hagan, Victor Rubin, and Allison Karpyn. "Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters." Policy Link, 2013. Web. 10 July 2015. <>


by Research Team

March 01, 2015

MyHealthImpact Topics 2015

Click on the word clouds below to see a recap of the wonderful blogs by our Research Team so far in 2015.

























































































Stay tuned to @myhealthimpact for more news on the interconnection between health and tech!



by Keiara Morris

April 30, 2014

Empower Me and Health

Recently I started my own blog called ”Empower Me.”. My decision to start a blog came from having a need to just get it all out. Often times, I find it hard to verbalize what I need say but writing these things out seemed to be my way to vent. For the longest, I struggled with a blog name, the audience I wanted to reach, really even if I wanted to go forward with the whole thing, did I have time and would people really read what I have to say? I obviously put those things aside, stepped out on faith and onward I went. As my “about” states, “My goal is to empower and my purpose is to help. I’ve realized that as I pour myself into others, I’m doing nothing but helping myself. Empowering you as I empower myself; uplifting together”. If you can’t tell already, this blog is like my baby. Excuse me, as I get a little passionate. I’m still in the beginning phase of this and I haven’t written many posts but I believe this is the start of something great.

As of yet, I haven’t directly made a post about health and its importance but with my interest and own personal struggles with weight-loss, eating right etc., it isn’t far off. People tend to forget that mental health is a huge component of overall health. I’ve never really thought about it in this way, but I do believe that my blog caters to being mentally healthy; burden-free, honest, successful, stress-free, excited about life and happy. I’m promoting these behaviors because in my own personal opinion, it’s important to be this way. If you haven’t checked out my blog please do so and hopefully it will help you as much as it helps me. Uplifting together.



by Ebony Baldwin

October 21, 2013

Health Literacy?

Health Literacy is defined as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. It requires a complex group of reading, listening, analytical, and decision-making skills, and the ability to apply these skills to health situations. For example, it includes the ability to understand instructions on prescription drug bottles, appointment slips, medical education brochures, doctor's directions and consent forms, and the ability to negotiate complex health care systems. When patients are faced with complex information and treatment decisions, there are specific tasks that should be carried out to ensure that one is getting the best treatment possible. Those tasks include:

• Evaluating information for credibility and quality
• Analyzing relative risks and benefits
• Calculating dosages
• Interpreting test results
• Locating health information.

In order to accomplish these tasks, individuals may need to be:

• Visually literate
• Computer literate
• Information literate
• Numerically or computationally literate
• Oral language skills are important as well.

In addition to that, it is important for patients to articulate their health concerns and describe their symptoms accurately. They need to ask pertinent questions, and they need to understand spoken medical advice or treatment directions. In an age of shared responsibility between physician and patient for health care, patients need strong decision-making skills.

Next time you visit your local physician, make sure you are practicing and carrying out these tasks. It is important for patients to receive the best care possible, as well as, know how to make accurate decisions when it comes to healthcare.

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by Julian Cobb

October 21, 2013

Breast Cancer: Study Results, Causes, and Health Literacy

When thinking about breast cancer, many people automatically shift their focus to women. In particular, women within the African American community. Studies have shown that breast cancer is more common in white women than African American women. In all actuality, men are also susceptible to breast cancer. Just like women, men do have breast tissue, which has the possibility of developing breast cancer.

I was pretty surprised when I learned of this news. From my research, the exact cause of breast cancer is not known. Even though there is no exact cause, the risk of getting breast cancer increases with age. Factors such as family history and alcohol usage also increase the possibility of getting breast cancer. For males, the most cases for breast cancer have been detected between ages 60- 70. Overall, a male’s risk of obtaining breast cancer is only 1%. Though this percentage is fairly low, this doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility for men.

In terms of health literacy, everyone needs to be knowledgeable about breast cancer. Having this knowledge base can help improve the quality of life by recognizing the signs early and seeking treatment if necessary. Knowing that breast cancer is 100 times more likely in women than men, this encourages me to consistently check on the women in my life. It is my duty to ensure that they are going to get mammograms and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Just knowing about breast cancer isn’t enough. Being proactive in your efforts can help save lives.

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by Dr. Fay Cobb Payton

August 28, 2013

Unconscious Bias and Your Health

 Almost one year ago, I presented to a group of black female college students on the topic, “You Ain’t Crazy: It’s Your Mental Health”.  The sisters wanted to have a frank discussion around dealing with the stress associated with day-to-day issues, such as matriculation at a predominately white institute, culture, family, sexism, racism and how life plays out.  Responding to the pressures of it all, one student was asked why did she seek help with her issues, and her response was simple: “to make sure that I don’t go crazy”.   One point of frustration highlighted by these students was the interplay between perception and reality. There was the constant practice of second guessing their decisions, particularly scenarios dealing with race and culture.  After all, who wants to read more into a situation than is there? You know the questions: “Did he mean to say that? What does he mean? How should I take what was said?  How would you perceive that?”

Reading the situation is a complicated topic, or is it?  Dr. David R. Williams, professor of sociology and public health, discusses the topic of unconscious bias in the lives of Black Americans in the September 2013 issue of @essencemag. The two-face depiction captures the article’s title, “No, You’re Not Imagining It”. Williams offers a myriad of scenarios that often causes pause.  That is, as a Black person, “Is this really happening to me?”.  The element of surprise can grip Black folks though the bias imparted by whites can be unintentional.  Yet, the outcome or reality of the scenario can have a profound effect on the recipient.  Scholars define unconscious bias as the understanding that people can consciously believe in equality while simultaneously acting on subconscious prejudices they are not aware of.

Williams and other public health scholars have determined that the outcome is not a mere sense of challenge of the parts of Black people.  As noted in the Essence piece, someone who fosters and imparts racial prejudices can do so implicitly; though often automatic, the unconscious bias behavior leads to differential treatment – without effort.  Unconscious bias influences the lives of Black people in the form of employment (hence, economic),  educational and yes, health and health disparities – albeit heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, engagement in sexual risk behaviors and depression. While the scenarios offered by Dr. David R. Williams represent every day life as we move about,  the resulting questions are commonplace but thought-provoking: “Do you see me? “, and if you do, “how do your see me?  In health care, public health scholars ponder the same questions.  The relevance here is how you see me starts the dialogue of how your treat me as a person and as a patient.

As I reflect on recent life circumstances, I ponder my own moments of unconscious bias experiences. There I am in the supermarket as I shop for the next family dinner.  The checkout clerk pauses, looks and proceeds to ask me: “Why is your hair so short?  Are you a cancer patient, or are you making a statement?” Now, the picture shown here is not I, but the style is one that I own.  I am not making a statement nor am I a cancer patient.  The politics, bias and perceptions of Black hair, particularly for Black women, is a subject reserved for a read of Dr. Lynette Kvasny’s blog, Black Women’s Love Affair with Hair”. Yet, the very question and judgment (“or making a statement, cancer patient) speaks volumes.   My response to the clerk was “what if I am a cancer patient?”  His apologetic comments followed as I completed my transaction.

Case 2: I had a medical procedure done which was a high stress experience .  The waiting for the test results was heave, scary and a prayerful time.  During the film read with a physician, I stated aloud” “the mass has a meniscus”.  To which the physician replied, “how do you know that? How do you know meniscus?  How do you know this?  This surprises me”.  His surprise momentarily precluded the focus on my medical care.  My simple reply to his disbelief was “Chemistry 101 Lab and can we focus on my health”.

Then, there is the unconscious bias imparted in the workplace, the unconscious organizational impact.  This level of bias creates an organizational culture that permeates bias rather intentional or unintentional. This mini-me culture can reinforce bias.  This can create personal stress particular in hostile workplace environments.  The “I understand; I am sorry”, conjectures do little to offer individual support or reduce health stressors.   As one sister indicated in that August 2013 session, “Don’t let them steal your joy”.

As Dr. David Williams offers in the @essencemag article, there are others ways to confront these scenarios.  Taking care of your health tops his recommendations. Be resilient, and visualize positive outcomes.  Breathe. Pause.  For as much I share this advice, am I talking to myself? Yes, constantly.  After all, it is my (@myhealthimpact) physical and mental health to protect.


by Julian Cobb

July 30, 2013

Why I Joined the MyHealthImpact Team

It seems like yesterday that I was sitting in Dr. Payton’s Information Systems Management Class alongside my friend, Keiara Morris. I was immediately intrigued when I noticed that Dr. Payton and I shared the same last name  “Cobb”. Not many people have Cobb for a last name. After about the second week of class, I went and introduced myself at the conclusion of class. Dr. Payton, too, found it interesting that we shared the name, Cobb. If I can remember correctly, we began to ask where our families were from and made small talk from there.

As time passed, it became second nature for me to go speak to Dr. Payton after class. Keiara and I would go stop by her office hours after class just to chat, and that’s when Dr. Payton introduced me to myHealthImpact. I knew I wanted to become involved when Dr. Payton explained that the network’s strategy was “for-students-by-students”.  In many instances, students don’t like to necessarily discuss health related issues that could affect them in everyday conversation. Since social media has become a mainstream of communication for many young adults, I believe this has been a successful way to inform students about the project. I’m looking forward to seeing the positive impact that myHealthImpact is going to make in the lives of college students. 

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by Keiara Morris

July 21, 2013

Why Health? Dad and Me

On May 9, 2012, a 44-year old, African-American male that exercises regularly and eats pretty well suffers from a heart attack. This man is my Father, my Dad, and my best friend. To see him, the man that has given up so much for me, laid in a hospital bed helpless shocked me. I never stopped to think, not even in my wildest dreams, that anything like that could happen. Tip 1: no one is invincible. This situation helped kick start my healthy lifestyle walk as well as wanting to encourage others to do the same. Hopefully this isn’t speaking badly of me, but before and now just a little over a year later, my Dad is more in shape than me. Seeing someone that does more than you in the gym suffer from a heart attack is scary.

My Dad constantly reminds me that we have the same blood running through our veins; we are one in the same and I must be completely aware of the health issues that could arise if I don’t take care of myself. I may pout as he reminds me of this as I lift a burger into my mouth or don’t want to get out of bed to workout, but he’s right and I know he is. I’ll call him my built in accountability partner. Tip 2: An accountability partner is extremely helpful. Get one of those!

To see someone I love in a situation like that, motivated every inch of me to help others as well as myself from having to experience the same thing. My goal is to lift as I climb in my journey which involves teaching, getting the information out there, and getting people involved not just with the project but actively whether it’s walking, running, eating healthy or (hopefully) a combination of it all. So I’ll leave you with Tip 3: GET INVOLVED. Being involved with MyHealthImpactNetwork has helped me stay on course. I can’t possibly motivate others to get healthy if I’m not doing so myself. To speak contradictions is something I choose not to do.

As I look around my community (college and hometown), the information is there but is it being put out there in a way that it is understood or in an outlet used by those it needs to be reached? MyHealthImpactNetwork does that and I’m making myself a part of that. I feel like it’s my duty.






by Francoise Knox-Kazimierczuk

July 14, 2013

Representations of Black Womanhood: Implications in Health

                                                 Miami University
                                              Doctoral Candidate

The prevalence of chronic disease for African Americans is substantially higher than their white counterparts. According the National Health Statistics African Americans had higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS], 2010). In addition to having a greater risk for chronic disease African Americans experience more complications and endure greater rates of mortality. Although current data indicates that there have been improvements in mortality rates, life expectancy, and disease prevalence, disparities between the races are still substantial.

In the United States data on health disparities is rarely presented in an intersectional manner, edifying race, class, and gender (Kawachi, Daniels, and Robinson, 2005). It is through the use of controlling black female images that the interpellation occurs and health disparities are perpetuated. When individuals connect with images and do not engage them critically we allow dominant hegemonic representations to colonize our minds, shaping our assumptions about ourselves and others (Gauntlett, 2002). The connection between how black women were viewed and the implications it might have on health policy, health education, and individual interaction with the healthcare system has never been directly addressed in health disparity literature. Researchers tend to focus on issues of access emphasizing availability of adequate health insurance, culturally competent healthcare providers, and medical centers (Smedley, 2003). While, addressing issues of access is an important component in reducing health disparities controlling for these factors health disparities still remain.


Controlling for variables such as income, health insurance, and access provides minimal  impact on the health of African Americans when matched to white counterparts, so the question must be asked, “why do black women have so many health problems relating to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease?” What part does racist and classist ideological beliefs have on health outcomes? Focusing on the short-comings of health education in regards to enacting positive change in minority communities brings one to the study of black female images. It is through these images that black female identity is viewed and formed, shaping intra-personal and interpersonal development and interaction. The intrapersonal deals with the psychology of the individual delving into how identity and self concept is conceived, and this is important for understanding of how the individual may view self, which provides insight into potential motivations for self-care.

The construction and perpetual use of misrepresentations of black womanhood has left an indelible mark on the American healthcare system. As an African American female the relegation to subservient and deviant roles is assured; for the female staring as the jezebel or the mammy is the best that can be expected. Reiterations of these representations play out on the news, television shows, magazine covers, and movies. Visual, auditory, and social text displaying these controlling images almost seem inescapable. Text provides a specific discourse about race, class, gender, and sexuality, and while the viewer is able to pick and choose the text that he are she interacts with the process of mediating the messages that are received is not entirely possible. Living in a perpetuate world of performance due to the white gaze African Americans loss ‘self’ taking on the embodiment of the oppressor’s image of other. This internalization of mammy or jezebel requires the African American woman to perform her ascribed role. The role of the mammy as it relates to self-care does not allow space for the black woman to acknowledge her mental or physical health. The role of the mammy is to care for the needs of others and sacrifice herself for the good of others. The jezebel on the other hand has no real regard for her health or that of anyone else. Her function is to seek pleasure and satisfy her temporal desires.  Both images construct identities disconnected from self in the sense that one is unable to be attuned with what is needed to become and remain well. Likewise, many of the other representations of black womanhood suffer from this lack of attunement due to being conflations of old representations of slavery, reclaimed oppressive images, or images constructed in binary opposition to hegemonic representations of white superiority.

Resolving health disparities becomes far more than simply providing education and access, it hinges on identifying racism and acknowledging the cultural and political power that racist images and narratives have in our social ecological spheres (Shavers, 2006; Sanders-Phillips et. al.). Understanding the intentions and motivations behind health behaviors of the marginalized comes with deep exploration of those oppressing acts and representations that serve to colonize and recolonize (Speight, 2007).  A stripping away of oppressor hegemonic cultural narratives must be undertaken and empowered counternarratives constructed from more authentic afrocentric spaces must occur.


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In Partnership with: Poole College of Management, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Science Foundation, Penn State

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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