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Bay Area Leaders Work to Ban Menthol, Flavored Tobacco Products

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April 18, 2017 Press Conference on Steps of San Francisco City Hall Announcing Landmark Ordinance against Menthol.  Photo by Malaika Kambon  

A silent public health tsunami ] has been quietly washing through the legislative halls of cities across the Bay Area and like tsunamis most people don’t realize its force and magnitude until it is right upon them. This tsunami is a hard-fought movement of the just, a powerful game changer, the likes of which we have never seen.

Even we, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), who have been working on this issue for over a decade, stand in absolute awe.

We stand in awe as leaders, like San Francisco Supervisors Malia Cohen and Asha Safai, Oakland Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington and City Councilmember Larry Reid, Contra Costa Board of Supervisor John M, Gioia, and San Leandro Vice-Mayor Lee Thomas, champion and move forward ordinances that will prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes (Newports) and all flavored tobacco products in their respective jurisdictions.

We pinched ourselves when San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to prohibit the sale of these deadly products within the entire City and County of San Francisco.

Mayor Ed Lee signed the bill into law on July 7th; it will become effective April 1, 2018.  Setting the stage to stop the recruitment of future generations of San Franciscans from becoming the replacement smokers for the tobacco industry’s dying customers.

Not another generation of seduced children who because of their zip code are more likely to step on a landmine of nicotine addiction than inherit the good health outcomes fostered by growing up in healthy vibrant communities.

Detractors of cities and counties who are no longer willing to be complicit in the distribution of these deadly products say the cities will just lose tax revenue as people buy them from neighboring cities, well that city won’t be Oakland.

Oakland City Council will vote on similar legislation July 18 and more cities and counties are in various stages, from beginning conversations to final votes, of the process.

The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) has worked tirelessly to get menthol out of our communities, and we applaud these efforts.  Tobacco control and prevention have always been a local grassroots fight.

We know that while other societal ills continually rivet our communal attention and resources, tobacco remains the number one killer of Black folks.  Taking 45,000 Black souls each and every year.  We know that strong public health policy will foster healthier communities and allow us to better deal with other critical issues facing us.

The AATCLC calls on our communities, our health departments, our leadership groups, our clergy, and our businesses to take the passage of these historic laws as an opportunity to support our legislators as they take on the tobacco industry, these federally adjudicated racketeers are better resourced and equipped than the Mafia.  Our community has borne the brunt of their racialized profiling.  The industry will fight harder to keep what they think of as “their turf”- that would be Black folks. Tell them to GET OUT!

The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), a collective of tobacco control experts dedicated to research, community collaboration and public engagement, is working to stop the 45, 000 preventable deaths of African Americans due to tobacco related diseases. Find out more at
savingblacklive.org

 

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Ex-NBA Coach Spreads the Word About Rare Heart Disease Affecting Blacks

A defensive specialist, Chaney won an NBA title with the Celtics in 1969 and 1974. After he retired in 1979, he spent 22 years coaching, including 12 years as a head coach in the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, and New York Knicks.

Don Chaney learned to play basketball while growing up in Baton Rouge, La. He became a skilled baller and played the game at the University of Houston. Then, he went on to have a successful career as a point guard — and later a coach — in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

      At 75, when Chaney was retired and ready to settle down and enjoy his newfound leisure when he had to acquire knowledge about an issue that has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with healthy living. 

     In 2019, Chaney was diagnosed with hereditary Transthyretin Amyloid Cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM), a rare but life-threatening disease that can lead to heart failure. It disproportionately impacts African Americans.

     Now, Chaney looks at raising awareness about the disease as a new style of coaching. He said the rare disease is something that “the average Black family” should take “extremely seriously.”

      “It is a process. Every time I have an opportunity to bring it up and spread awareness about the disease, I try my best to do it,” Chaney told California Black Media (CBM) during a virtual interview. “The biggest thing is that the Black community has the highest rate of heart disease in the United States. Doctors are seldom aware of the fact that this particular disease exists. They don’t look for it. So, if you’re not looking for (ATTR-CM) you’re not going to get the correct diagnosis.”

       ATTR-CM is an underdiagnosed and potentially fatal disease, according to the American Heart Association, the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. 

     The disease is characterized by deposits of amyloid protein fibrils in the walls of the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart. ATTR-CM, the amyloid protein is made of transthyretin, a protein found in the blood that transports important body fluids.  

      The amyloid protein deposits cause the heart walls to become stiff, resulting in the inability of the left ventricle to properly relax, fill with blood and adequately squeeze to pump blood out of the heart. 

       Dr. Kevin Williams, the chief medical officer for rare disease at the biotechnology company Pfizer, says his research shows that ATTR-CM’s symptoms are similar to those of more common causes of heart failure such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and swelling in the lower legs.

     He also said that the symptoms are not commonly perceived to be linked to a heart condition —‌ like carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness, tingling, or pain in the fingers), bicep tendon rupture, gastrointestinal issues (constipation, diarrhea, and nausea), and lumbar spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the open spaces in the lower spine). 

     “All of these factors can lead to delays in diagnosis or misdiagnosis,” said Williams, who is a Black medical doctor. “In the African American community, it’s important to fully explore the underlying cause of these conditions with the help of a cardiologist.”

     After his collegiate days at the University of Houston expired, Chaney was selected the 12th pick in the first round of the 1968 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. The Houston Mavericks of the American Basketball Association also drafted him that year.

     A defensive specialist, Chaney won an NBA title with the Celtics in 1969 and 1974. After he retired in 1979, he spent 22 years coaching, including 12 years as a head coach in the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, and New York Knicks.

     Since 2004, Chaney has relatively enjoyed retirement, but his heart condition was always a concern. Fatigue, palpitations, shortness of breath, and swollen ankles were something he thought was years of physically playing the game of basketball. He learned it was much deeper than the sports.

     “I was dealing with all these issues, but I hadn’t really made all the connections,” Chaney told CBM. “I just assumed all the symptoms were from my years of pounding on the floor in professional basketball. I thought it was normal. If I had known this, I could have started treatment earlier.”

     While he made numerous visits to the doctors to attend to his medical issues, Chaney said he started to “put the pieces” together after he began to share his family’s past with cardiologists.

     Chaney’s mother and grandmother passed away due to heart disease. Back when they were alive, he recalled them complaining about having the same symptoms – fatigue, shortness of breath, swollen ankles and knees – he was experiencing. 

    “The symptoms are similar,” Chaney said. ‘When you throw in carpal tunnel syndrome along with fatigue and palpitations… that pushes you into another category. So, I had some tests and found out the scary part that it was hereditary. We went on to try to manage it from that point on.”

    There are two types of ATTR-CM, wild-type, and hereditary. Wild-type is thought to be the most common form of ATTR-CM and is mostly associated with men over the age of 60. 

     Hereditary ATTR-CM is inherited from a relative and is due to genetics, affecting both men and women. In the U.S., the most common genetic mutation associated with hereditary ATTR-CM is found almost exclusively in people of African or Afro-Caribbean descent.

      It took more than 10 years to receive the right diagnosis despite knowing his family’s history of heart failure and experiencing heart-related symptoms, Chaney said.

     “It’s probably because African Americans don’t tell doctors everything that’s going on with them,” he said. “I’m guilty of it, too. They gave me some medicine but that didn’t really help much until they did further testing. It went beyond that. I actually had heart disease. You just have to tell your doctors everything.”

      Awareness of ATTR-CM among both patients and some doctors remains low, which in Chaney’s case and many others, could lead to delayed or misdiagnosis. But if symptoms seem unrelated it is best to visit a primary care doctor or an experienced cardiologist to discuss ATTR-CM, Chaney said.  

     In the United States, hereditary ATTR-CM occurs in African Americans (prevalent in approximately 1 in 25) and in older patients who may be misdiagnosed with high blood pressure-related heart disease.

     Chaney said he is “stressed to a degree” because he also has been spending time to get his family into testing mode since the disease is hereditary. His sister’s and daughter’s tests came back negative. He’s still waiting on his sons to go through the process.

     “They may not have it. But the disease is still present (in the family) and you could pass it down to your children,” Chaney said he has told members of his family. “I’m still going to press the issues to get them tested.”

While managing his ATTR-CM symptoms, Chaney spends time taking his grandchildren to NBA games in the Houston area. He also restores antique automobiles, participates in horseback riding, and is constantly testing his fishing skills. 

     His wife, Jackie Chaney, is now his primary caregiver and she is the one that calls the shots, he said.   

     “I do a lot of things within reason,” Chaney said. “I used to jump out of airplanes. But I don’t do that anymore. My wife monitors my condition, makes sure I see the doctor, and sees to it that I take my medication. I get a lot of help from a lot of people around here. I’m really enjoying my life.”

 

 

 

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Community

Fourteenth Street Market Gives Community Healthy Alternatives in Oakland

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Photo credit: Auintard Henderson

Owner Oscar Edwards stands in front of his “14 Street Market” located at 416 14th St. in Oakland which opened on March 6.  Edwards says he “. . . built his grocery store to give access to his community and provide healthy alternatives and still have things they know as well.”  He adds that “Black press for him is the voice that helps to bring my ideas and expressions full circle to the people.”

“14 Street Market” is open 7 days a week, 10am – 8pm Monday through Saturday and 11am to 7pm on Sunday.  It’s your neighbor market with groceries, snacks, drinks and more.  

Follow them on IG:  https://instagram.com/fourteenthstreetmarket  

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African American News & Issues

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Announces National Health Equity Strategy to Confront the Nation’s Crisis in Racial Health Disparities Sets Goal to Reduce Racial Disparities in Maternal Health by 50% in Five Years

“Your health shouldn’t depend on the color of your skin or the neighborhood you live in,” said Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSA. “The crisis in racial disparities in our country’s health care is unconscionable and unacceptable. While BCBS companies have made great strides in addressing racial health disparities in our local communities, there is so much more to be done.”

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CHICAGO, IL (April 20, 2021) – Today, as part of its ongoing mission to improve the health of America, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) announced its National Health Equity Strategy to confront the nation’s crisis in racial health disparities. This strategy intends to change the trajectory of heath disparities and re-imagine a more equitable healthcare system. BCBSA has convened a national advisory panel of doctors, public health experts and community leaders to provide guidance.
“Your health shouldn’t depend on the color of your skin or the neighborhood you live in,” said Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSA. “The crisis in racial disparities in our country’s health care is unconscionable and unacceptable. While BCBS companies have made great strides in addressing racial health disparities in our local communities, there is so much more to be done.”
“Starting here and starting now, we can begin to put an end to the racial disparities in health care,” continued Keck. “Our deep roots in the local communities we serve, combined with the scale and scope of our national reach, enable all of us at Blue Cross Blue Shield companies to drive this new strategy and bring real change. But we cannot do it alone. It is a moment in time when we as a nation must come together to build a new model of equitable health care.”

BCBSA’s National Health Equity Strategy is comprehensive and relies on close collaboration with providers and local community organizations. This collaboration was essential in recent months as BCBS companies worked with local leaders to support vulnerable communities with COVID-19 vaccine access. The strategy includes collecting data to measure disparities, scaling effective programs, working with providers to improve outcomes and address unconscious bias, leaning into partnerships at the community level, and influencing policy decisions at the state and federal levels. The multi-year strategy will focus on four conditions that disproportionately affect communities of color: maternal health, behavioral health, diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. BCBSA will first focus on maternal health, then behavioral health in 2021.
Setting a Goal to Address Racial Disparities in Maternal Health BCBSA has set a public goal to reduce racial disparities in maternal health by 50% in five years.
“BCBS companies are fully committed to reach this goal,” said Keck. “We will continue to collaborate with our local partners and providers to continually improve our programs and build momentum, and we will seek out new ideas and proven initiatives that accelerate health equity reform.”
Metrics will include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Severe Maternal Morbidity measures. BCBSA will report results annually. Use of nationally consistent measures will evolve over time based on research, industry development, and in-market learnings.
BCBS companies currently have a range of maternal health programs supporting women of color during their pregnancies. Each program is tailored to the needs of the communities they serve. These BCBS companies’ maternal health programs support both BCBS members and non-members of their partner organizations.

Commenting on the breadth of the BCBS companies’ maternal health programs, Dr. Rachel Hardeman, Founding Director, Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity and Assistant Professor, Division of Health Policy & Management, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and member of the newly formed advisory panel, said: “Who better to address racial disparities in maternal health than Blue Cross Blue Shield? BCBS companies serve every ZIP code across the U.S., and they have the scale and resources needed to ensure women of color get equitable maternal health care.”
A Panel of Experts Focused on Closing America’s Gap in Health Equity “The more people we bring to the table, the more we can create lasting change,” said Keck about the nine handpicked members of the BCBSA National Advisory Panel on Health Equity. “I’m excited we have brought together such experienced, highly regarded leaders in health equity and the community, and I look forward to their guidance as we move forward.”
Members include: Tracey D. Brown, CEO of the American Diabetes Association®; Marshall Chin, MD, MPH, Richard Parrillo Family Professor of Healthcare Ethics at the University of Chicago; Gilbert Darrington, CEO of Health Services, Incorporated; Adaeze Enekwechi, PhD, MPP, Research Associate Professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University; Maria S. Gomez, RN, MPH, President and CEO of Mary’s Center; Rachel R. Hardeman, PhD, MPH, Tenured Associate Professor in the Division of Health Policy & Management at the University of Minnesota; Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO of March of Dimes; Richard Taylor, CEO of ImbuTec; and Kevin Washington, President and CEO of YMCA of the USA. The National Health Equity Strategy is part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Pledge to Make Meaningful Change. The Pledge speaks to BCBS companies’ broad commitment to addressing racial disparity in health and all its forms.

ABOUT BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD ASSOCIATION
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 35 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides healthcare insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health IndexSM. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit BCBS.com. We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube and follow us on Twitter and Instagram. You can read our Pledge to Make Meaningful Change here. To learn more about our National Health Equity Strategy and our Maternal Health Program, visit BlueHealthEquity.com.

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