Centering Black History & Health

Last updated: February 1, 2023, at 9:13 a.m. PT

Originally published: February 1, 2023, at 9:13 a.m. PT

A collage of Black families, members, and youth

In honor of Black History Month, we invite you to delve deeper into our nation’s history and learn more about historical and ongoing health inequities and disparities that disproportionately impact Black communities. Many of these inequities and disparities are systemic and generational but addressable through collective change and community caring for community.    

Disparities exist in not only access to urgent healthcare but also preventative care that is the foundation of healthy living and thriving physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.  

In King County, Black infant mortality is twice as high as White infants, and Black adults are more than two times less likely to have health insurance than White adults. We are seeing that only 40% of Black children are ready for kindergarten compared to 58% of White children, and Black children are four times more likely to drown than White children. Research tells us that these disparate outcomes are directly a result of the oppressive systems that put Black people’s health at greater risk. Increased heart rates or blood pressure in Black women due to increased stress and trauma of oppression can severely affect infant mortality.  

Historically, and still today, healthcare institutions have systems that actively perpetuate harmful and unfounded stereotypes that Black people feel less pain and fail to address their cultural or religious needs.  

The focus of Vision 2025, the Y’s bold plan for strengthening community, is to develop healthy minds, spirits, and bodies for all, starting in our own backyard. With a focus on providing resources in culturally and linguistically relevant ways, Y Whole Person Health navigators aim to address the health inequities experienced in Black and African immigrant and refugee communities.  

When it comes to tackling preventative healthcare inequities, part of the solution is ensuring community can access culturally responsive services. Through our health equity team of Whole Person Health navigators, we are currently supporting East African immigrant and Black community members to receive referrals from culturally responsive providers. Providers who, for example, know how to provide life-saving mammograms in a way that preserves the modesty of patients who may otherwise avoid screenings out of discomfort or fear of the inequities embedded in culturally non-responsive systems.  

Partnerships with local organizations are helping us address the inequity and disparity in social determinants of health through work that reduces barriers in education, fitness, workforce development, housing, and mental health. These efforts allow us at the Y to offer swim lesson scholarships, meals, early education, child care, camp, shelter/transitional housing, and career and job readiness resources through programs like Y Scholars.  

Everyone can play a part in making healthy living a reality for all by volunteering, donating, and learning with resources, stories, and more gathered by our African American Employee Resource Network.   

This month, join us in centering Black history and health and building a more equitable future for all.  


In community & gratitude,  

Loria Yeadon 

President & CEO

YMCA of Greater Seattle