A few years ago, I was at a community health festival in Brownsville, a high-crime, very poor area of Brooklyn that is among the worst statistically in every category in New York City. After a while, I noticed something very important: few of the people coming in for checkups, testing, and medical advice were women; a majority of the people coming in were young men — all of them African American or Caribbean American.
It turns out that with the women, they felt they had no real need to come to the festival because they were getting care through pre-natal treatment at local public hospitals. But the guys were not going to doctors since many of them were unemployed, had no health insurance, and knew little about state health care exchanges.
I remember thinking if a communicable disease ever spread among this sample of Black men, then the public health system would not be able to respond to it in time because of the lack of routine care brothers receive, and perhaps because the public health system fails to know Black men and what affects us.
Turns out, that’s exactly what went down in Dallas when Thomas Eric Duncan (pictured) died of complications from his infection with the Ebola virus on Wednesday.
When you take a step back and look at things, Ebola is only one of the things that killed Duncan. There are other factors that others who were diagnosed did not have to deal with and that’s why they are still alive.
Three Americans all contracted Ebola while working as volunteers for a missionary group in Liberia. Another got it while working as a journalist there. When those four were diagnosed, treatment was almost immediate. They were taken to the United States and given what was needed. These cases were examples of the virus being diagnosed on the spot and getting an immediate response.