The fight against racism and racist institutions in the United States has long and arduous, with many setbacks and backlash. Nonetheless, it is also a story of the brave persistence of ten generations of Black people in the face of adversity by mainstream society. A crucial part of this struggle for equality is the recent push for equity in health, reflecting Dr. Martin Luther King’s words: “Of all forms of discrimination and inequalities, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.”
The Council on Black Health (CBH) is one of the leading organizations in the nation today which are fighting to eradicate this most ‘shocking’ form of inequality. The Council was founded in 2019 by Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika, a Ph.D. and MPH professor of Community Health and Prevention at the Dornsife School of Public Health in southern California and professor emeritus of Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
At the foundational ceremony of the CBH, Dr. Kumanyika described the Council’s mission and objectives. She called for reframing the debate around Black health away from alleged ‘hopelessly and permanently unfixable’ biological/social differences to the impact of systemic racialist policies that created these inequities in the first place. The Council calls for a ‘decolonised’ perspective on Black health and provides many resources to accomplish that goal.
While based in California, the CBH is a national organization with a growing base of academic researchers, community leaders, healthcare professionals, and lay members. It is both a ‘research and action network’ and a center of operations for those working to impact both individual, as well as social and political factors responsible for keeping Black health down. The Council works through its own network, as well as in collaboration with other groups active in the same field.
The Council on Black Health has already received a $785,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Around the same time, the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) president and CEO Tobeka G. Green announced a cross-organizational collaboration with the CBH and four other Black health groups in order to “Amplify the importance of health equity and resolve major disparities that exist within Black communities”.
The Council’s landmark achievement during the first two years of its inception was the introduction of the ‘Black Health Bill of Rights’. Proposed by CBH member Tambra Raye Stevenson, the Black Health Bill of Rights received national coverage in 2021 with its calls for “A collective movement to improve health in Black communities”. The Council explained: “The Black Health Bill of Rights demonstrates our commitment to changing the narrative on Black health in the United States and for people of the African Diaspora worldwide.”
The CBH’s Black Health Bill of Rights comprises of seven articles. Articles 1, 2, and 3 declare and reinforce the rights of Black people worldwide to both ‘a culture of health’, as well as equitable and adequate healthcare treatment that takes the cultural prerogatives of Africans and African diasporas into account. Articles 4, 5, and 6 emphasize certain solutions to the health inequality and discrimination against Black people. Article 7 takes a holistic approach and advocates for a society where Black people are allowed to live freely without the emotional and physical toll of racism on their lives.
Learn more about the Council on Black Health by visiting the website councilbh.org