February 16, 2022
MCHD recognizes sickle cell efforts as part of Black History Month
MOBILE, Ala. — In celebration of Black History Month, the Health Equity Office would like to highlight the work accomplished by the Black Panthers within the sickle cell community. Providing today’s information is Skandan Ananthasekar, an Outreach Educator with the Health Equity Office.
The Black Panther Party has a history of health activism and has made a lasting contribution to public health. The Black Panther Party advocated for health as a human right for the Black community and the poor, calling for the government to provide both free interventional and preventive care. They recognized the link between poverty and poor health, arguing that poverty must be addressed to fully achieve health.
Even before the term “health disparities” was coined, the Black Panthers established community programs that would reduce disparities in health and survival in Black communities. These included the Free Breakfast for Children program, drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, grocery and clothing donations, and escorting seniors to medical appointments. The Black Panther Party also operated community-based healthcare clinics in 13 cities, offering medical care, housing assistance, and legal aid services.
In the 1970s, the Black Panther Party ran a national sickle cell screening program. Because sickle cell disease is a genetic disease that predominantly affects those of African descent, it garnered little public attention, poor funding, and limited treatment options. The Black Panthers worked towards rectifying this disparity by screening thousands of people for the sickle cell trait. They also used their platform to raise awareness around the condition through educational outreach.
The public health work done by the Black Panthers provides valuable lessons for how resources can be allocated to meet the health of our community. Their work to establish health as a right for all and not a privilege for the few still resonates true today.
What can you do?
• Donate blood to support transfusions
• Donate to the Mobile Chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.
• Get tested if you are of African descent and do not know your status
• Advocate for better treatment, education, and research
• Educate yourself and others about sickle cell disease