African-American Contributions To The Field of Integrated Care
African-Americans have made innumerable contributions to the field of integrated primary care and behavioral health. In honor of Black History Month, we’d like to take a moment to recognize some of these accomplishments and celebrate the individuals behind them.
The National Institutes of Health recognizes Dr. Joycelyn Elders as one such pioneer in this field. As an advocate for comprehensive healthcare delivery – which includes both physical health services and mental health services – she worked tirelessly with various agencies at federal, state, and local levels throughout her career to increase access to integrated care for all Americans; however, her focus was particularly on underserved communities that included African-American populations.
Dr. David Satcher also stands out among his peers for his commitment to this cause: he initiated nationwide efforts within Department Of Health And Human Services (HHS) organizations during his tenure as Assistant Secretary For Health from 1998–2001 and later served two terms as Surgeon General from 2001 – 2006 under President Clinton where he continued promoting integration between mental health services and primary healthcare practices via The New Freedom Initiative program intended “to eliminate disparities in access…for people living with mental illness in America” through collaborations among HHS offices including Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Institute Of Mental Health (NIMH).
Additionally, there are numerous grassroots initiatives led by African-Americans across our country working tirelessly every day towards providing quality integrated care services within their respective communities despite limited resources or support. Here within our CFHA community, we celebrate the African-American primary care providers, social workers, psychologists, care managers, psychiatrists, clinic administrators, and others who make contributions each day to improve the health of their communities.
As we celebrate, however, we also recognize the work that needs to be done within the primary care and behavioral health workforce to increase representation. Despite the significant contributions of African-Americans to integrating primary care and behavioral health, they remain underrepresented in both fields. According to data from 2018, African-Americans make up only 5% of all physicians and 5.1% of all psychologists nationwide. This is significantly lower than their population representation (13.6%). By contrast, social work has a higher representation at 19.9% (data from Zippier.com).
With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we dream of a day when patients have ample opportunity to see themselves in the care teams that care for their health and when that healthcare bridges the gaps in outcomes for all groups, but particularly our black brothers and sisters.