A conference on health disparities among the Western New York’s African American residents is taking place this weekend. The focus is on what direct action can be taken to combat those disparities.
Poverty is both a cause and effect of poor health and a greater focus is being put on how to directly address disparities. To that end, the second annual Igniting Hope conference is being convened by the African American Health Disparities Task Force. The task force includes the University at Buffalo, ECMC, HOPE Buffalo and The Concerned Clergy of WNY.
Last year’s conference focused on bringing health disparity issues to the table. This year, Task Force member Pastor George Nicholas says the conversation is geared toward identifying necessary resources needed to combat those imbalances.
“We want to have a community-based organization that will focus on research, advocacy, programmatic things of that nature and also continue to do this work in terms of community building, community engagement to address these issues,” Nicholas said.
Nicholas said many people in the black community lack a primary care physician who oversees a patient’s entire health care plan. That leads to a dearth of knowledge about how to take preventative and proactive measures regarding their health.
One of the featured speakers at the event is Nicholas’ sister, Dr. Lisa Nicholas, who will be speaking about women’s health. The CDC says black women’s birth outcomes are nearly four times worse than white women. Citing tennis star Serena Williams' complications after giving birth, Pastor Nicholas said health disparities can even affect well-off African Americans.
“Even if an African American man or woman has resources, they may still suffer unjustly within the system just because of the inherent bias and racism that is in every system in America and certainly in the health care system," he said.
The conference is being held at the Jacobs School of Medicine. The Friday evening session goes from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. It resumes Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 4:30 p.m. It is free to attend but attendees must register online.