Why We're Launching 'Better Black Health'

08/11/2015 02:07 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2016

The inequalities African Americans battle are plenty and severe -- but the widening health gap is arguably among one of the most crucial and inadequately addressed concerns.

Better Black Health hopes to help change that.

Today, HuffPost's Black Voices and Healthy Living are launching a new editorial initiative that aims to dissect disparities in health and discuss ways to combat them.

Better Black Health seeks to raise awareness around the health gap and spotlight efforts to make the medical field more inclusive. We hope, through our reporting, to inspire efforts to engage communities in practicing healthy habits and empower people to make wellness a priority.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we spoke with Dr. Karen M. Winkfield, a Harvard affiliated oncologist about disparities in breast cancer survival rates. Nationally, she said black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer following a diagnosis, compared to white women. In some cities, she said that disparity can jump to as high as 111 percent.

But that wasn't the most shocking discovery we made during our interview: Winkfield revealed that she was the only black radiation oncologist in Boston -- and only one of three black radiation oncologists in all of New England. Her career experiences may be not common among black men and women, but her story, and her voice, should be shared as a way to help inspire others.

Looking at the larger scale, African Americans make up just 5 percent of clinical trial participants. They have the highest cancer death rate and shortest survival time of any ethnic group in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. African Americans are 20 times more likely to have heart failure before the age of 50, and the list goes on: when it comes to diabetes, early onset Alzheimer's and a host of other conditions, the black community fares worse.

When we talk about structural injustice, we cannot forget our health institutions. From clinical research to quality hospital access to diversity in the very profession of medicine, representation of African Americans is woefully low.

As the Black Lives Matter movement sweeps the nation, it would be remiss to not use this time as a moment to discuss not just the death, but the preservation and physical conditions of black bodies. Conversations can't end at violence and injury -- instead, we must also acknowledge that health, wellness and the security of quality health care are important aspects of a life well-lived.

Better Black Health is committed to carrying on that conversation -- and we hope you join the discussion.

Follow along and let us know: What are you doing to make the health of your community a little bit better? Tweet @BlackVoices or @HealthyLiving with the hashtag #BetterBlackHealth, post on the Black Voices Facebook page, or submit a 500-1,000 word blog with #BetterBlackHealth in your proposed headline using this link.

Correction: Language changed to reflect that Dr. Karen M Winkfield is one of only three black radiation oncologists in New England and the only one in Boston.