- The Council of Black Nurses LA (CBNLA), a chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, celebrated five decades of healthcare advocacy at their Black-tie Gala in Los Angeles this past month. The gathering brought together 300 guests. Dr. Betty Smith Williams, who co-founded CBN-LA in 1968 with Barbara Johnson following the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., offered these congratulatory remarks: “I credit the tremendous success of this organization with the expertise, cultural reference points and commitment from our nurses to determining the specific health care needs of the Black community and addressing them.” While acknowledging their hard work, Dr. Williams was quick to reinforce the need for a renewed commitment. “We still have a long way to go towards closing the disparity in healthcare for African-Americans,” she said, adding that her confidence in CBN-LA nurses was unshakable. “They are qualified, steadfast and up to the task.”
CBN-LA’s current president is Pastor Chad Ricks. While he acknowledges the positive strides made toward equality in healthcare for all, he also believes that critical challenges are mounting every day. He specifically points to plans by the current White House administration to repeal The Affordable Healthcare Act as an initiative that takes two steps back in its health coverage for all Americans. CBN- LA President Ricks is a nursing administrator with 20 plus years experience, who also served in the U.S. Army as a medic on the front lines in Iraq. He now oversees patient care at hospital emergency rooms throughout Southern California. He states: “If you look at the number of African-Americans receiving healthcare for the first time under The Affordable Healthcare Act and factor in their regular visits to healthcare providers, you’ll see evidence of a sharp decline in the number of catastrophic illnesses and visits to the emergency room. Prevention is the best medicine.”
According to Familiesusa.org, The Affordable Healthcare Act reduced the number of uninsured African-American adults by almost half between 2010 and 2015, from 27% uninsured to 14.5% and directly improved the health of those recipients.
To combat this impending healthcare reversal, Ricks says that nurses in CBN-LA and The National Black Nurses Association must play new roles in healthcare advocacy. As an example, he points to the mid-term election upset by Democratic candidate Lauren Underwood, a 32 year-old African-American nurse with no prior political experience, who unseated a four-term Republican incumbent to win a seat in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District. Underwood’s campaign platform was closely tied to healthcare advocacy and President Ricks credits that with helping her win. “All people deserve quality healthcare and we at CBN-LA will continue bringing that reality to fruition.”
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