Books about Black health and health disparities in the United States are sometimes difficult to find, however there are several available that should be considered required reading.
I recommend these works for those who want to hear Black doctors and others detail the history of medical racism and the fight for health equity in America.
Sickening: Anti-Black Racism and Health Disparities in the United States
By Anne Pollock
From the spike in chronic disease after Hurricane Katrina to the lack of protection for Black residents during the Flint water crisis — and even the life-threatening childbirth experience for tennis star Serena Williams — author Anne Pollock takes readers on a journey through the diversity of anti-Black racism operating in health care.
“Sickening” concludes with an examination of racialized health care during the COVID pandemic and the Black Lives Matter rebellions of 2020 It cuts through statistics to vividly portray health care inequalities. In a gripping and passionate style, Pollock shows the devastating reality and consequences of systemic racism on the lives and health of Black Americans.
We’ll Fight It Out Here: A History of the Ongoing Struggle for Health Equity
David Chanoff, Louis W. Sullivan
Racism in the U.S. health care system is undermining Black health care professionals and exacerbating health disparities among Black Americans for centuries. These health disparities only became a mainstream issue after a group of health professionals at Historically Black Colleges and Universities [HBCUs] banded together to fight for health equity. “We’ll Fight It Out Here” tells the story of how the Association of Minority Health Professions Schools (AMHPS) was founded by this coalition and the hard-won influence it built in American politics and health care. David Chanoff and Louis W. Sullivan, former secretary of Health and Human Services, detail how the struggle for equity has been fought in the field of health care.
Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine
By Damon Tweedy
When Damon Tweedy begins medical school, he envisions a bright future where his segregated, working-class background will become irrelevant. Instead, he finds that he has joined a new world where race is front and center and Black bodies are considered pathological and inherently diseased. “Black Man in a White Coat” examines the complex ways in which both Black doctors and patients must navigate the difficult and often contradictory terrain of race and medicine. Tweedy discovers how often race influences his encounters with patients, and e illustrates the complex social, cultural, and economic factors at the root of many health problems in the Black community.
Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination
Between its founding in 1966 and its formal end in 1980, the Black Panther Party blazed a distinctive trail in American political culture, touting revolutionary rhetoric and militant action. Alondra Nelson, however, uncovers an indispensable but lesser-known aspect of the organization’s broader struggle for social justice: health care.
The Black Panther Party’s health activism was an expression of its founding political philosophy and also a recognition that poor Blacks were both underserved by mainstream medicine and overexposed to its harms. In 1971, the party launched a campaign to address sickle-cell anemia and established screening programs and educational outreach efforts.
Black & Blue: The Origins and Consequences of Medical Racism
By J. Hoberman
“Black & Blue” is a description of how some American doctors think about racial differences and how it affects the treatment of their Black patients. Unlike many studies of medical racism that fail to address racially motivated behaviors of physicians, “Black & Blue” penetrates the physician’s private sphere where racial fantasies and misinformation distort diagnoses and treatments.
Doctors have imposed white or Black racial identities upon every organ system of the human body, along with racial interpretations of Black children, the Black elderly, the Black athlete, Black musicality, Black pain thresholds, and other aspects of Black minds and bodies.
Lee Ross is a health writer for the Washington Informer. This article was originally published in the Washington Informer.