If the United States is a melting pot it is because of the diversity of immigrants in the country who come from the four corners of the globe. While this is the case, once in America, some immigrants face more challenges than others.
It is a disparity that is evident in the health care system and often times defines how and why some communities cope and survive better than others.
Within the health care bureaucracy, it is not just differences in culture that Africans bring with them; it is also issues of “poverty, language, racism and education” which they confront while in America.
To help the community understand what it takes to live a healthy life in the face of these challenges, the African Leadership Group(ALG) invited healthcare practitioners of color in Colorado to discuss these issues at a Health Forum on Saturday March 30 in Englewood, Colorado.
Billed as its “first quarterly special event”, the forum summoned the expertise of Johnny Johnson (M.D.), obstetrician and gynecologist, Alok Sarwal (Ph.D.), executive director at Colorado Alliance for Health Equity and Practice and Haftu Gebrehiwot (M.D.), a family practice physician, to shine a light on their experiences and to offer advice on what can be done to address these problems in the U.S. health care system.
“You can say I am a brother who has skin in the game,” Johnny Johnson said in his introductory remarks. “You thank God there is someone who looks like you, who is at the table of healthcare reform, that is your protector.”
But Johnson wasted little time taking the community to task. “You have to be very careful that you pick the right doctor,” he stated. Johnson is African-American.
On his part, Sarwal, originally from India, stated: “The challenge we face as immigrants, new immigrants, refugees and some who’ve been here for a number of years, is that we come from our countries, and we bring along our dignity, our humanity, our trust, but what we lack after we arrive here, that really challenges us probably for the rest of a generation, is that we lack the power of persuasion, engaging the majority, and understanding the face of capitalism.”
For Gebrehiwot, who is from Ethiopia, “immigrants suffer very serious healthcare issues after they come to the United States, “ he said. Not only that, “there are a lot of challenges of health care delivery to the immigrant population.”
Listen to Part 1 of the discussion through the attached audio clip.