Advocating for a Healthier Future

The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.

-- Ida B. Wells-Barnett

It's been decades since NAACP founder Ida B. Wells-Barnett uttered those words, and yet they remain as impactful as they ever were. When pioneers such as W.E.B. DuBois, Mary White Ovington and Wells-Barnett founded the NAACP in 1909, they saw the light of truth and demanded that others see it too. They recognized that we, as African Americans, would never reach the peak of our potential if we were treated as second-class citizens in our own county, especially as it relates to our health. As long as black families were being denied access to doctors, hospitals and healthcare, they understood we could never meet or exceed the level of success achieved by their white counterparts.

One hundred and five years later, we have made significant gains. But, we still struggle to live healthy lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2009, African Americans had the largest death rates resulting from heart disease and stroke compared with other ethnic populations. In 2010, the prevalence of diabetes among African American adults was nearly twice as large as that for white adults; that same year, African American adults had the largest HIV infection rate compared with rates among other racial and ethnic populations.

While more hospital doors are now open to all, too many African Americans lacked the resources to enter. But that was before the Affordable Care Act. Today, the NAACP is working to enroll hundreds of thousands of African-Americans in the Health Insurance Marketplace before open enrollment closes on March 31st, 2014 and to challenge resistant governors in Republican states to expand Medicaid.

We know that African-Americans are 55 percent more likely to be uninsured than white Americans. We also know that enrolling more folks in ACA means that they will have access to key preventive services that are crucial to your health. Expanding opportunities for coverage, and providing no-cost screenings and quality disease management to patients can improve health outcomes for black and brown communities.

The NAACP is fully committed to carrying the mantle passed down by our founders to advance healthy black families. The preventative care, made possible by ACA, should be woven into all aspects of our lives. Let's take advantage. In fact, let's take action just as Ida B. Wells-Barnett and our founders did 105 years ago.