The COVID-19 pandemic revealed shocking disparities in health outcomes based on race and ethnicity, highlighting long-standing inequities among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other people of color) Americans. NPT’s Aging Matters: Disparities & Health Equity explores the reasons for racial health disparities and how disparities over a lifetime impact health as people age. The documentary also identifies some of the factors that result in these disparities and seeks to show what is being done to improve access, trust and knowledge about quality health care.
Aging Matters: Disparities & Health Equity premieres Wednesday, June 23, at 7 p.m. and will also be available for streaming at video.wnpt.org. A virtual preview event co-hosted by FiftyForward will take place via Facebook Live Wednesday at noon.
“COVID-19 affirmed our earlier findings as we have reported on Aging Matters over the years, said LaTonya Turner, the documentary’s producer. “Black and brown people are more likely to have poor health and quality of life, but the ‘why’ has not always been discussed.” Turner produced NPT Reports: COVID-19 Beyond Numbers in November 2020.
According to Dr. Aimalohi Ahonkhai, an infectious diseases physician and public health researcher at Vanderbilt Medical Center, there are six major determinants that impact health. These are economic stability, food security, physical environment (ZIP code and housing), education (including misinformation and language barriers), community and social context (isolation and discrimination), and the health care system or lack of access and inequities in care.
“We need to create systems that help to ensure that the way care is delivered is consistent across the board,” Dr. Ahonkhai says in Aging Matters: Disparities & Health Equity. “But we also need to listen. We need to listen to our patients,” she continues.
Also appearing in the documentary are Monica Reyna, director of the Hispanic Family Foundation; Brian Haile, CEO of Neighborhood Health; and Meharry Medical College student Morgan Williams, director of the school’s student-run Salt Wagon Clinic.
Then there’s 87-year-old Bernardeen Fleming, first shown receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Immaculately turned out with manicured nails and red lipstick, Fleming talks about her eagerness to get out of the house after being vaccinated. But there’s more to her story: Fleming was one of first Black registered nurses hired at St. Thomas Hospital. “Those were the days of segregation; now we’ve come a mighty long way since those days,” Fleming says in the documentary. “We have not gotten out of the discrimination; we may think that we have, but we have not,” she adds, musing on how discrimination affects patient care.
Additional broadcast times for Aging Matters: Disparities & Health Equity are Thursday, June 24, at 12:30 a.m.; Sunday, June 27, at 6:30 p.m.; and Tuesday, June 29, at 12 a.m. on NPT. Airtimes on NPT2 are Friday, June 25, at 7 a.m. and Monday, June 28, at noon. The documentary is also available for streaming at video.wnpt.org.
NPT Reports: Aging Matters is hosted by Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Kathy Mattea. The series is made possible by the generous support of the West End Home Foundation, the Jeanette Travis Foundation, The HCA Healthcare Foundation on behalf of Tri-Star Health and Cigna. Additional support was provided by Jackson National Life Insurance Company and the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.