The Local Take: COVID-19, African American Health Disparities With Dr. Thaddeus Bell

May 2, 2020

COVID19 Cases by Race and Sex - Georgia Department of Health May 1, 2020

Saturday morning at 8am on WCLK's The Local Take I speak with Dr. Thaddeus Bell founder of "Closing The Gap in Healthcare" about the health disparities that put our Community at greater risk for COVID-19. 

I ask Dr. Bell to share with us how his organization "Closing The Gap in Healthcare" came into being.  He speaks about his career as a primary care physician and coming to understand that our Community need to increase our knowledge of health literacy. This is where disparities start, culturally we have not embraced the healthcare system. 

As a physician with decades of experience, I ask Dr. Bell if he has even known anything like COVID-19 and while he says no, he explains that the closest thing would be the parallels between HIV and COVID-19. He says that COVID-19 is more contagious than any other virus the human race has encountered. He shares that the Black Death killed 50 million people and the 1918 Pandemic killed100M.

While we understand that health disparities exist in our community, some people seem to blame African-Americans. No one considers that we ARE the "essential" workers at grocery stores, bus drivers, janitors if we are "over" exposed to the public why are we being blamed for getting sick? Dr. Bell speaks about the social determinants of health, our environments, socio-economic status, poverty, low wages and that all are a legacy of racism in our country. There isn't a simple solution. 

The majority of African-Americans are at higher risk due to hypertension, diabetes and obesity. He speaks to people in our Community with high blood pressure that are not aware of the condition. The trifecta of health challenges that put our community at higher risk for COVID-19.  Dr. Bells speaks about the early research out of China indicating that COVID-19 impacted those with hypertension, diabetes and obesity disproportionately. 

  My heart was in my throat as Dr. Bell speaks to our culture embracing obesity.  He spoke about chronic smoking in our culture and the fact that we know these things are not good for us. He said that we can take more responsibility for our health by doing those things that we know: Stop Smoking, Eat Better and Move More. Dr. Bell says that exercise should be considered medicine. 

I speak to Dr. Bell about the high number of African-American deaths that all start with multiple visits to the ER where our people are refused service.  I ask if we can come up with a code word to whisper to the African-American healthcare providers if we go to the emergency room so that we are taken seriously.  

He says there isn't a code word but if you have a dry unproductive cough that won't go away go to the emergency room immediately.  Explain to the Emergency Room admissions desk that you have an underlying health condition (hypertension, diabetes, obesity) that hasn't been managed well in the past and they should admit you. 

For more information on Dr. Thaddeus Bell 

For more information on Closing the Gap in Healthcare

Georgia Department of Health - Confirmed COVID19 Cases by Race and Sex
My brother Kory Primus taking the self-swab COVID19 Test