Ann Arbor nonprofit hosts event series on "The State of Black Health"

An Ann Arbor nonprofit for African-American women is hosting a free three-part virtual series that calls attention to the physical and mental health of Washtenaw County's Black community.

The series, titled “The State of Black Health," is hosted by the health and human services facet of the Ann Arbor (MI) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. In the past, the health and human services group has held workshops and panels that focused on women’s health issues, including breast cancer and heart health. This year, the group wanted to look at how COVID-19 is impacting the Black community's wellbeing.

“The goal is really to just get more information out there, particularly at this point when a lot of medicine and appointments are via [telemedicine],” says Wendy Woods, president of the Ann Arbor chapter. “It’s important to be able to ask questions and to just get more informed as you’re making decisions about your health.”

Each of the sessions features social workers, physicians, educators, and others in panel discussions and Q&As with attendees. The first installment of the series focused on the overall state of Black health, and the second focused on Black emotional wellness. The third part, which will happen in a few weeks, will focus on biological and social disparities in reproductive health. 

“COVID-19 becomes intertwined with other issues that are happening within many of our Black communities,” says Woods. “Some communities have a focus on access to clean water and lead in the pipes. We need look no farther than Flint, Mich., and just right here in Washtenaw County with what is happening with the [Gelman dioxane plume]. You also have other health issues that are complicating things, and economic issues that become part of it because many of us now have to work remotely from home. Many wage earners are not able to actually work, and unemployment rates become higher. The panel really focused a lot on the intersectionality of a lot of these issues.”

The local chapter of The Links, Incorporated has worked with local churches to help spread the word about health issues and COVID-19 vaccinations in Washtenaw County. It also works to help the local community with other problems that are currently intensified by the pandemic, such as literacy issues among students who are struggling to learn in a virtual setting. 

“We’re trying to use all of the various tools that are out there to really help empower the community and give them as much information as possible so they can make good decisions in light of this pandemic,” says Woods. “It’s something we really need to have everyone involved in.”

More information is available on the organization's website and Facebook page.

Maria Patton is a lifelong Ypsilanti resident. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, working towards a bachelor’s degree in communications and media. You can find more of her work in The Michigan Daily, where she is a columnist for the Michigan in Color section. She can be reached at pattonma@umich.edu.