Systemic racism permeates so many aspects of healthcare in the U.S. — from exposure to dementia risk factors, to discrimination at the doctors' office, to a damaging lack of racial diversity in clinical trials.
This month is Black History Month. Let’s talk about the impacts that history has on public health in the present: Alzheimer’s doesn’t discriminate, but there are systemic imbalances — in the research establishment, in our healthcare system, and in our society at large — that hurt people in underserved communities. These race-based inequalities increase dementia risk for Black people in the U.S., and they make it harder for this group to get quality care.
This past week, we’ve published a number of stories on dementia these racial disparities. But we aren’t just talking about these issues this week. Our ongoing coverage highlights the ways clinical trials need to change, while our ongoing Diversity + Dementia series tells human stories, amplifying the messages of the local and regional role models we highlight, and share as widely as we can the positive change they’re inspiring in communities of color.
Take Fayron Epps, who started her career as a nurse, only to get a PhD and develop a model to teach black churches how to normalize the conversation around dementia. Or Gloria Aguirre, who has created an art program that is linked directly to UCSF’s clinical practice, to educate and engage people in the Latino community on brain health. David Williams is teaching people from Black communities about how to arm themselves with their own health data in order to fight discrimination at the doctor’s office, with his online platform Care3.
We like to refer to these people as health care warriors: those innovating to help normalize dementia among people who, culturally, try not to talk about it. This month and every month, I’m grateful to those who’ve shared their personal experiences, wisdom and expertise. The more people that join the conversation, the easier it becomes to break down dementia stereotypes, democratize access to diagnostics and treatments, and — so importantly — diversify clinical research.