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Trial by Fire

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me5.jpgMost readers of Real Health are familiar with celebrity chef Charles Mattocks as an advocate for type 2 diabetes awareness. But, recently, Mattocks took on another chronic disease that is much less well known than this form of diabetes that Mattocks manages each day of his life. This illness is also close to Mattocks and moved him to educate others about people living with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a severely painful neurological disease that causes a variety of symptoms that can readily change and sometimes lead to depression.

Previously known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or RSD, CRPS results in burning and throbbing sensations in the body's extremities, increased sensitivity to cold, swelling at the affected site of pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints, muscle spasms and weakness, changes in skin temperature, texture, color and integrity, decreased mobility and an inability to move certain parts of the body that's affected.

In 2007, Mattocks's mother, who is Bob Marley's sister, was diagnosed with CRPS. "I didn't know how to deal," Mattocks says. "My mother is private by nature and I had to do research on my own. From what I thought, it seemed like CRPS was something that wasn't that serious and could be fought; worked out."

Many people don't understand CRPS. Statistics about the illness show that CRPS was classified as a rare disease by the National Organization for Rare Disorders while other stats note that there are between 200,000 and more than one million people in the United States suffering from CRPS.

According to the McGill Pain Index, a measurement of pain developed at McGill University in Canada, CRPS, ranks near the top of the index chart for pain intensity. What's more, the disease doesn't discriminate and men and women of all ages are at risk of the illness, although CRPS is more common in women. Children can also develop CRPS, but usually not before they reach age 5.

When Mattocks researched the illness he began to talk with his mother as he watched her health declining. "I wondered where life was taking her," he says. His concern for his mother's well-being led him to connect her with a CRPS community online. But Mattocks felt that his mother and the people in the online community needed even more support. "I placed myself in their shoes," he says. "I asked myself, 'What would I want if I were in their place?'"

The answer dawned clearly on him. He'd want other people to be aware of the disease. From this realization, Mattocks made it his mission to educate people about CRPS. That's when he decided to film a documentary featuring the stories of those who live with the disease.

finaltrial.jpgThe name of the film is Trial by Fire and their stories will allow others to see how these CRPS sufferers function, what their days are like and "the many struggles and triumphs that they endure and celebrate," Mattocks says.

"I base the name of the documentary off the descriptions that the people who live with CRPS gave to me," Mattocks explains. "They describe sensations of burning and fire within their limbs. I began to think of these people going through a test; a trial by fire. It's a test that can be difficult to pass, but people deal with this test every day."

Currently, Trial by Fire is being filmed. Mattocks plans to enter the work in film festivals. With the completion of the documentary, his vision and mission to make others aware of CRPS will happen. For many survivors of the disease, Trial By Fire will generate another chance at hope when others learn about an illness they've lived with for so long that so few know anything about.

Check out the trailer below.

Say Ahhh!

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The other day I visited my dentist for a regular check-up. At one point, the dentist asked me to open my mouth wide and stick out my tongue. When I did, he grasped my tongue with a tissue, moved it from side to side, lifted it and leaned in close with a light to check inside my mouth. This isn't the only time my dentist did this, but it's the first time I bothered to find out why. Later, I learned that he was examining my mouth for lesions or abnormal patches of cells that might have the potential to become cancerous.

Although health care organizations disagree about the need for oral cancer screening, there are many people who might benefit from this test to detect mouth cancer or precancerous lesions that might lead to the disease. According to health experts, people who use tobacco of any kind, drink lots of alcohol, have exposed themselves to massive amounts of sun and had a previous diagnosis of oral cancer may be the best candidates for mouth cancer screening. What's more, people who have been exposed to the HPV-16 virus face a higher risk of developing oral cancer.

In addition to the routine examination dentists do to check for mouth cancer, there's also a rinse and spit test that uses special blue dye that tests for abnormal cells. Another test involves the dentist shining a light into the mouth to check for any abnormal tissues. Yet another screening test is an oral cancer risk assessment system created by Vigilant Biosciences to evaluate someone's risk of cancer. The test features technology that detects specific protein markers that can show if an individual has a high risk of oral cancer. Vigilant Biosciences expects to submit a request to the Food and Drug Administration for premarket notification of this assessment system in the United States later this year.

"Regular screening and early detection are absolutely essential in the fight against oral cancer," says the chief dental officer for Vigilant Biosciences, John Comisi, DDS. "Given that early diagnosis can more than double a person's chance of survival, it is critical that both patients and their dentists take action to avoid late-stage detection. Any steps we can take to raise awareness about this issue and enhance screening practices will help us increase the survival rate for oral cancer."

According to the American Cancer Society's (ACS) most recent estimates, about 40,000 people will get cancer in the mouth and throat, and nearly 8,000 people will die of these cancers. Specifically, these cancers will affect the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks, the teeth, the gums, the front two-thirds of the tongue, the floor of the mouth below the tongue and the bony roof of the mouth. These areas are easily seen by a dentist during an examination. The part of the throat just behind the mouth includes the back third of the tongue, the back part of the roof of the mouth, the tonsils and the side and back wall of the throat.

The ACS reports that these cancers are more than twice as common in men as in women, and they are about equally common in blacks and in whites. In addition, the average age of most people diagnosed with these cancers is 62, but they may also strike younger people.

When Vigilant Biosciences polled almost 1,000 U.S. consumers online to find how much they knew about risk factors for oral cancer and what kind of screening tools they preferred, the company created an infographic that summarized key findings in the survey.

That infographic is shown below. I think you'll find it interesting reading in connection with April being Oral Cancer Awareness Month.



Good morning Ms. Ferguson,
I read Real Health magazine and it is also distributed in my office. I felt strongly compelled to contact you about the cover of the Spring 2015 issue. As you know, actress Naturi Naughton is wearing a very revealing top next to a article title about sex robots. Moreover, the language under the actress's name is about empowering women and girls. 

This cover was so offensive, it makes me want to stop distributing Real Health. Nothing about a cleavage plunging top is empowering to females. It further objectifies them and solidifies the already rampant mainstream messaging that women are valued due to their bodies and beauty. They are sexual objects. It doesn't help that next to Naturi's face are the words "sex robots" in big bold lettering.  

Please publish something in the next issue regarding the offensiveness of this cover, as I can tell you that I am not alone in having issues about the "health" messaging coming from this magazine. 

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments. 

Greetings Kate,
I stumbled across the latest Real Health magazine today. And, the short of it is, I'm appalled.

How could you honestly think that a title of "Sex Robots" next to an incredibly revealing top is "empowering" anyone. Just in case this got past you unknowingly, I've highlighted the key parts of your magazine cover in the attached photo. But, let's be honest, as editor in chief, you probably noticed.

I understand your demands in this society - sex sells and you're in the business. But don't lie to yourself (or your readers) that you're helping to empower anyone while also succumbing to patriarchal demands.

If you really want to make a difference and empower people, then do it actively and consciously - not in a tiny blurb next to what you meant to be a distracting photo.

Disappointed feminist,

Good Morning,
I rarely have complaints about the magazine, however, the Spring 2015 issue cover is degrading. The picture of the actress, while she is beautiful, has nothing to do with health. The picture actually belongs on a fashion cover.

If I didn't know who the actress was, I would think the picture was associated with the article on "Sex Robots".

Please refrain from degrading women, we go through enough already.


A Spring Affair: Empowerment Issues

Thank you to all the readers who wrote in with opinions on our Real Health Spring cover. I recognize your time is short and your willingness to take precious minutes to share your thoughts is incredibly helpful as we shape the magazine moving forward.

There were two main themes to the feedback. The first involved some taking issue with the choice of what Naturi Naughton was wearing. The second and bigger concerns revolved around the cover line highlighting our sex robots piece and it's placement on the cover near Ms. Naughton's face.

The cover image focused on Ms. Naughton, who is a passionate advocate for the issue of empowerment of women and girls. The story detailed her experiences as a young girl and reveals the strength and inner courage it took for her to overcome judgmental eyes and criticism from people who summed her up and dismissed her before she ever opened her mouth.

There was no intent to mislead or create confusion around Ms. Naughton's story. The "sex robots" coverline highlighted another article featured in the publication. It is unfortunate her powerful story was overshadowed by the misunderstanding and this is something I will work hard to ensure doesn't happen again in the future.

The selection of the cover image of Ms. Naughton was what I felt was a striking image that reflected her self-confidence and beauty. I thought a healthy vitality fairly burst from this image of Ms. Naughton who was wearing a dress she wore in an episode of the popular series Power in which she stars as Tasha St. Patrick. Your feedback is appreciated and will be part of future cover choices.

I would like to close by adding the staff at Real Health will continue its effort to bring readers more award-winning, comprehensive health and wellness information that's of relevance to the communities we serve.

It's our pledge at Real Health to always be responsive to the concerns of our readers and please continue to share your comments, ideas, opinions and suggestions with us.

Thank you.

Kate Ferguson
Real Health

Updated 5/5/15

Check Yourself Out Today!

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Currently observed on the fourth Tuesday in March, today marks the American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Alert Day. The one-day observance was created to sound the alarm to Americans about how serious diabetes can be if the illness is left undiagnosed or untreated.

When I was a child, I recall my parents discussing Miss or Mister So-and-So who had a "touch of sugar." At that time, I didn't know that this euphemism meant the person had diabetes. But as I became older and took more notice of those who were described with this phrase, I began to realize that a laundry list of health issues, such as heart troubles, amputations, blindness, kidney disease and stroke were also linked with it.

Many years later, I learned one of my cousins had developed type 2 diabetes. After she hit 40, she'd gained a huge amount of weight and had difficulty keeping off the pounds. As I became more health conscious and more deeply immersed in studying diseases and the role nutrition and fitness played in their onset, treatment or reversal, I realized that my cousin exhibited several of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

Before she'd been diagnosed, my cousin never realized that she could possibly develop type 2 diabetes. She was a cook in the cafeteria of an elementary school and was celebrated in our family for her ability to "burn those pots."

A few years after she was diagnosed, my cousin constantly complained about how little time she had to cook for herself at home. She wasn't active and rarely even walked. She commuted to work and took a bus right from her house to the school where she worked. At the age of 60, she was placed on meds to control her diabetes. I remember that she was very unhappy about having to pop these pills.

One day she called me with some optimistic news. She told me that she was due for retirement and planned to overhaul her lifestyle. No more fast food eating; she was going to start by entering a diet program. The next time I spoke with her, she'd dropped about 10 pounds. She was ecstatic. She also started a walking program. Soon, she lost another 10 pounds.

By the time she was able to retire, my cousin had lost at least 30 pounds. Every time we talked, she'd tell me how she so looked forward to cooking her meals. Then came the big news: Her doctors took her off the diabetes meds.

Today, my cousin still struggles to maintain her exercise program and keep her weight down. But she's remained free from having to down diabetes meds.

Despite my cousin's ups and downs and her struggle to keep the pounds at bay by eating healthy and staying active, to me, she's a success story by any measurement. When I think of her, I consider how much sooner she could have started her lifestyle changes if only she'd realized how at risk she was to develop type 2 diabetes. If she had, she'd never have become diabetic in the first place.

I'm saying all this to say, that taking the Diabetes Risk Test (available in English and Spanish) is a wake-up call that all of us can use. Don't be like my cousin and wait. Click here to answer a couple of questions and learn your risk of type 2 diabetes.

REDPOWER_cover_flyer.jpgWhen I attended the recent Red Pump Project program on Tuesday, March 10th, I was looking forward to listening to the discussion at an event that's held each year on this date. Red Pump Project programs recognize National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Six years ago two women launched Red Pump Project as a social media campaign that eventually blossomed into this nonprofit organization. The mission of the Red Pump Project is to educate women and girls about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and reduce the stigma associated with the virus. The event on this wonderfully, finally snow-free evening was a program that featured a panel of dynamic women who are veteran HIV/AIDS experts, activists and advocates committed to continuing the conversation about a disease that still has yet to be eradicated.

RED PUMP_PANEL.JPGFrom left to right: Deborah Bosier; Aletha Maybank, MD, Chareeah K. Jackson, Hydeia Broadbent, Rowena Johnston, PhD, and Deborah Levine

The panel of women included Dr. Aletha Maybank, the assistant commissioner at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; HIV/AIDS activist and Ampro ProStyl brand ambassador Hydeia Broadbent; Chareeah K. Jackson, the lifestyle and relationships editor at Essence, Dr. Rowena Johnston, VP of research at amfAR, Debra Bosier, a program manager at Iris House; Deborah Levine, executive director of Love Heals, the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education and communications director of the National Black Women's HIV/AIDS Network; and Lolisa Gibson, an HIV/AIDS advocate and educator.

The event took place at the Time and Life Building in New York City. When you stepped off the elevator on the eighth floor and swept through the doors into a reception area, finger foods, sweets and information about community events beckoned from small tables where they lay waiting. I loaded some of this and that on a plate and scooped up flyers and glossy promo cards then walked into the discussion area. This area was for the panel set up on a stage that faced rows of chairs in a formation that invited open forum-style sharing from the audience. It was the kind of safe, supportive environment that the Red Pump Project strives to create for its programs.

As women milled about, some wandered in to find a seat, or to sit with friends and acquaintances, where they chatted in between bites of food. The evening assumed the air of a mellow, laidback gathering humming with good vibes.

Unfortunately, I didn't wear my red pumps. (Actually, I'm not sure if I even have a pair.) But as the hosts of the event reminded the audience several time, the message of the Red Pump Project is more than about fashion and style. But I sure didn't mind being treated to the fashionable display of interesting red pumps and shoes every which way I looked. (Some even pulled a few unexpected ooohs and aaahs from my mouth.)

HYDEIA_1.JPGHIV/AIDS activist and Ampro ProStyl brand ambassador Hydeia Broadbent

Then the evening kicked off. As the speakers were introduced and spoke, a clear focus emerged: Women should put themselves first and get tested for HIV/AIDS so they know their status. Maybank stressed that this agenda must continue being pushed because there is still so much misinformation and ignorance about the virus. She also warned that women have to regain their sense of being a "collective" by reaching out to other women and girls.

"Some people are thinking if I don't have vaginal sex, they can't get infected," Levine said. She suggested that a supportive approach can be as simple as women and girls sitting around the "kitchen table simply talking about these issues."

Bosier stressed that, at Iris House, her conversation with women is focused on letting them know they do have choices when they need to make decisions. "No glove, no love," she advised. Bosier also said that she works with a lot of younger women and too many of them think they're invulnerable. At Iris House, she said, one of her favorite discussions is the "condom talk" she gives women. "I say to them that prevention is power," Bosier said.

HYDEIA PUMPS.JPGOh yes, we can't forget those red pumps! Hydeia Broadbent rocked these classic cut-out styled heels.

Broadbent and Gibson spoke about their experiences as women living with HIV/AIDS and discussed how the virus has affected their lives. As a single woman living with the virus, Broadbent discussed the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and how she's negotiated relationships and dating. Gibson talked about meeting her husband and how they handled their relationship as a serodiscordant couple. She also discussed becoming a mother and giving birth to an HIV-negative child.

Johnston discussed how antiretroviral treatments have changed during the past few years. She also reiterated the message about the importance of getting tested for HIV. "Get tested and continue getting tested," she said. "Get educated about the virus, and if you're negative stay negative."

She also discussed the role gender inequality plays in the home and at work and how this contributes to the transmission of HIV. Women must make themselves a priority, she said. In addition, she believes it's key for women scientists to do more research on the effects of pre-exposure prophylaxis, a.k.a. PrEP, on women who are HIV-negative.

In general, I thought this annual Red Pump Project event and panel discussion was an exceptional program. But as I looked around the room and on the stage, I thought how great it would be if programs like this one could also include male voices.

When the issue of relationships and HIV are discussed, educating and empowering women are certainly worthwhile goals. But women are just one-half of the equation. Many of us are in relationships with men, so, given that reality, discussions like these seem like missed opportunities when men aren't reflected in the conversation and seemingly aren't actively engaged in sharing the mission to do their part to also raise awareness about the effect of HIV/AIDS on the women and girls in their lives.

Aging: Who Pays the Costs?

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Steps of Life.JPG"Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations." --Oliver Goldsmith

Several years ago, when my mother's health deteriorated, my sister and I learned firsthand about the mental, physical and financial challenges that often accompany taking care of an elderly parent.

By virtue of gender, we were automatically designated as our mother's primary caregivers--and we both agreed that we were better suited to the task. Why? Because it simply made more sense. We shared a home with my mother and were extremely close to her; our gender cemented that bond. Naturally, as her daughters, we would care for her as she'd cared for us as children. 

The outlook my sister and I shared was perfectly in sync with my mother's beliefs, but it did not disallow discussions about the unfair assumption that "dutiful" daughters were obligated to care for elderly parents. My mother also had two sons. As part of the family, they, too, were expected to be "dutiful" and contribute in whatever ways they could to my mother's care. Whether they made contributions to her care in the currency of time or money, my sister and I both expected their donations.

Research suggests that it is primarily daughters who, even if unasked, shoulder caregiving responsibilities for elderly parents. In many families, as in mine, everyone assumes that daughters will be their parents' caregivers. But with family health care costs soaring, how will children, in general, be able to afford health care for both themselves and their aging and/or ill parents?

The fact is that America's elderly population (people 65 years old and over) is growing at a faster rate than any other U.S. group. With the explosion in numbers, what it means to grow old in America will be defined by the state of health care for seniors and the quality of life issues they and their loved ones face. As elderly parents live longer and become saddled with more chronic illness, higher disability rates and growing long-term care needs, how will families meet these overwhelming caregiving needs?

A while back, President Obama endorsed a government social program that would support long-term care costs; it would pay for the elderly to reside in a nursing home or assisted living facility, or it would provide services to help those able to live at home.

As a fact of life, however, aging and its associated challenges aren't issues the government can solve for us. In our own homes right now, we must learn how to prepare for our inevitable aging and decline in health as well as increased long-term health costs.

At the most basic level, taking care of ourselves and our loved ones requires the foresight to plan today for tomorrow's health crises.

As you might imagine, the legalities involved in caring for elderly parents are as complex and challenging as each individual's circumstances. Don't wait until a crisis occurs to discuss elderly care and explore your options to meet it.

This way, when you're faced with the question, "What should we do about mom or dad?" you will already have an answer--one reached through family discussions about each individual's responsibility and ability to help, not one based on assumption of gender.

photo 1.JPGSeveral hours ago, Cutting for a Cure returned to host this year's 48-Hour Health Fair and Haircutting Marathon. The event kicked off at Denny Moe's Superstar Barbershop in New York City's historic neighborhood of Harlem. The marathon showcases 12 celebrity barbers cutting hair for 48 hours straight to raise funds to provide educational resources, guidance and information about the prevention of deadly diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, prostate cancer, HIV/AIDS, and many more, that disproportionately affect the minority community.

photo 2.JPGDenny Moe, a.k.a. Dennis Mitchell, is the barbershop's owner and founder of Cutting for a Cure. In 2010, Mitchell was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He was unaware that he had the disease. "I've probably had it a long time, but I didn't realize it until I became familiar with the symptoms," Mitchell says.

That's when he decided to become a health care activist. Mitchell wanted to provide access to health education in a relaxed setting, so he encouraged folks to come on down to his barbershop.

photo 3.JPGToday, the marathon gives community residents the opportunity to take advantage of free medical screenings, education panels on health, live entertainment, celebrity guests and special events. This year, the event's theme is "Renew You--Mind, Body and Spirit."

For the entertainment component of the event, the Celebrity Summer Stage is hosted by Toni Belafonte and offers a lineup of diverse artists that include Plly A, Jessica Betts, Brianna Collette, Ohene Cornelius, Felix Ramos, Raye 6, Anthony Wayne, among other entertainers.

photo 4.JPGThe event features Marsha R. Bonner, a motivational speaker, social activist and founder of the H.U.G.S (Helping Us Grow Spiritually) Movement and one of Cutting for a Cure's partners. The organization's health partners include the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc., Harlem Hospital, Metropolitan Hospital, BOOM!Health NYC and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, among others.

The event runs through the weekend and ends on Sunday, July 13th.

Know For Sure

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Dr. Rachael Ross, physician, sex expert , and co-host of TV show The Doctors, at testing event in Times Square, shares that individuals can now buy at the drug store or online the OraQuick HIV test, an in-home version of the same test that she uses in her family practice.

Tomorrow is National HIV Testing Day, held each year on June 27th. This afternoon, I received an invitation to a press event where OraSure Technologies, Inc. teamed with one of our former Real Health contributors, Dr. Rachael Ross, TV host and best-selling author Ross Matthews and a number of other community advocates to promote HIV testing.

Unfortunately, I was unable to go. But I received photos from the event that are shared in this post.

Gay Men's Health Crisis's Antoinette Barkley (center) urges bystanders in Times Square to get tested for HIV.

Perhaps, you've heard the message before about how key it is to get tested for HIV, so we'll know our status. But there are still many people who haven't tested, who are unaware of their HIV status. Whatever the reason is that might have stopped you from getting tested, it's possible to take the test at home if you'll feel more comfortable there.

(From left to right: Doug Michels (OraSure Technologies), Robbyn Kistler (Greater Than AIDS), Morton Shaw (Walgreens), Dr. Aletha Maybank (NYC Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene), Antoinette Barkley (GMHC), Gabriela Isler (Miss Universe), Lolisa Gibson-Hunt (Greater Than AIDS), Hosea Crowell (GMHC), Deborah Bailey (GMHC), Kelsey Louie (GMHC), Dr. Rachael Ross (Co-Host of Television's The Doctors).

OraSure makes this possible with its OraQuick In-Home HIV Test. It's the first and only rapid HIV test approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It's available in most national drugstore and mass merchandiser retail outlets and offers results in about 20 minutes.

Best yet is that OraSure offers support and advice if you test positive, or negative.

To read more, click here.

Maya_Angelou.jpgWhen I heard Maya Angelou died, I found the news incredible. Although I realized this remarkable woman was well up in years, I'd always thought that she was somehow indestructible.

During her childhood and adolescence, her life was affected by the kind of pain and suffering many of us only read or hear about in tragic news stories. But she weathered the storm to become a woman of substance and stature who many people regard with respect and awe.

Like many African-American women, Maya Angelou suffered emotional and mental trauma from the stigma and discrimination that often accompanies being born black in a color-conscious world. What's more, Ms. Angelou was female, another strike in a patriarchal social order that still continues to, in many ways, place women second.

It's been said that Maya Angelou was a "phenomenal woman" and I couldn't agree more. Just read almost anything from the thought-provoking writings, recordings, art and plays she's produced.

But recently I learned there was much more to her life than just reading, writing and performing. Beyond poetry and storytelling, Ms. Angelou was also an advocate for women's health.

Several years ago, Wake Forest University honored Maya Angelou by naming a women's health care center after her. Ms. Angelou was pleased. Women's health was a priority for her. "Anything that has to do with improving a woman's life, I support it," she once said to Lesley Kennedy, a reporter for

But that was the way Ms. Angelou felt about human beings in general. "Anything which serves to improve the condition of any human, I support it," she added to expand on the thought.

I also found it interesting that Maya Angelou suffered from heart disease, the nation's No. 1 killer of women, according to the American Heart Association. (But at the time the time I wrote this blog, the cause of Maya Angelou's death wasn't yet confirmed.)

Two years ago, Ms. Angelou gave her name to another women's health center, the Maya Angelou Center for Women's Health and Wellness in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the city where she lived.

The goal of the center neatly coincided with Ms. Angelou's last cause and one of her lifelong concerns: "That women care enough about themselves to want to change their health."

I have a confession to make. Like many African Americans, I don't trust the health care system. And that's not because of the Tuskegee experiment, conducted over 75 years ago, during which researchers deliberately left 399 black men untreated for syphilis. It's because of my own experiences with health care workers and the numerous examples of the callous and uncaring ways in which people--especially people of color--are treated when they go to the doctor.

For example, who can forget videos that documented the deaths of several people who went to the emergency room for medical care and wound up leaving on gurneys. One woman in New York City waited in the emergency room for hours, finally falling to the floor in convulsions, only to be ignored by health care workers as she lay dying.

How many stories have we heard about hospital patients who died because health care workers did not wash their hands or a doctor prescribed the wrong medicine or removed the wrong organ?

At times, I find myself wondering at the business-as-usual environment of health care institutions. My primary care facility is now chock-full of doctors offices. On the surface, it seems so very convenient. Patients can see myriad specialists in one place. Primary care physicians steer patients to their specialist colleagues. Trial-size medications are routinely dispensed--fresh out of the bag of the pharmaceutical rep who had lunch with your doctor just hours before.

So, yes, that kind of thing makes me wonder.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't think there are caring physicians who have the well-being of their patients at heart. And, no, I don't think that all health care workers are reckless, uncaring and inept. But I do think that the system needs to make sure that it does have the best interests of the people it serves at heart.

If that means screening and training health care workers more stringently and carefully, then so be it. The reason for people's distrust of the health care system is simple. People feel that institutions and the individuals who work there really do not care about the quality of the service they provide.

And, sure, it's a really tough job, and somebody's got to do it. But let's try to get the right people to do it--ones who care, ones who are well trained and ones who know how to deal with the public.

The bottom line is that people must become more proactive in taking care of themselves. No one should leave his or her wellness entirely in the hands of health care providers. Indeed, no doctor can care more about you than you do about yourself. Also, over the years, I have learned to become informed and ask questions--many of them--of the doctors I see. For me, becoming educated about health issues is empowering. Sometimes the first step to achieving change starts by looking within.

Oh yes, about that distrust I feel; I'm working on it. How? By educating myself even more about health issues so I don't feel as if I'm at the mercy of the health care system.

For me it's a way to remain in control of my health and my ability to negotiate the system, which plays a big part in maintaining both my physical and mental well-being.


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