Black History Month 2022: Black Health and Wellness

By:
Stephanie Chong

Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of all African Americans both famous and not-so-famous, as well as a chance to reflect on racial biases, and explore meaningful ways to stop the cycle of inequality and systemic racism.

As we reflect on this year’s theme of Black Health and Wellness, we celebrate the contributions of Doctress Rebecca Lee Crumpler and Dr. Daniel Hale Williams. It is also a reminder of the health disparities plaguing people of color, a problem that has been exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On an individual level it can feel overwhelming to figure out how to address large systemic problems like racism and health disparities. But there are meaningful ways to take action.

Right now, organizations and individuals alike, are advocating for direct care workers (certified nursing assistants and home health aides) to receive increased wages and gain easier access to certification.  Direct care workers are essential workers who are paid just 30 cents above DC’s minimum wage, for work that is physically and emotionally demanding. The direct care workforce is predominantly comprised of women of color and immigrants, who have arguably one of the toughest jobs in healthcare with the least amount of recognition or compensation. This Washington Post article addresses the direct care staffing crisis our region – and country – is facing, as more and more low-wage workers leave the workforce for higher paying, less demanding jobs. Like most instances of inequity, this is an issue that not only effects people of color and older adults, the shortage of direct care workers is far reaching - with families, neighbors, and businesses left to pick up the pieces.

If you would like the opportunity to offer testimony to support higher wages and better working conditions for direct care workers, you can do so at the Workforce Investment Council, Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, meeting on February 10 from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.   You must complete a witness form here no later than 5 p.m. two days prior to hearing, and send your written testimony by noon on the day before the hearing to labor@dccouncil.us.

Let’s celebrate, reflect, advocate, and make meaningful changes to address equity well beyond the end of the month.

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