I was flipping through tv channels during Thanksgiving break when I stopped on this news conference. The conference was held by the New York City Health Department in a church in Bedford-Stuyvesant–a predominantly Black neighborhood in Brooklyn. The press conference was meant to kickstart the Department’s new flu shot campaign that is aimed at getting senior citizens–specifically Black senior citizens–to go out and get their flu shot. As the description below the video notes, the majority of flu related deaths occur in the senior population and vaccine rates in Black and Latinx communities tend to be very low. The Health Department has initiated a photo campaign encouraging senior citizens to get vaccinated.
I found this short video clip incredibly relevant to our class mainly because of a comment that the Health Commissioner made during the press conference. Dr. Mary Bassett stated in the video that the African American community has “a long legacy of mistrust” towards the health care system which can explain why some of them may have “misguided” opinions about the flu shot. As we have read in this class, we know exactly where this warranted mistrust of the health department comes from. Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid, along with the many other works we have read this semester, clearly highlight the history of medical experimentation on African Americans. The video on NY1 reminded me of some lingering questions I have had ever since reading Medical Apartheid. While the distrust in the medical system is extremely warranted, it is times like these that make me wonder what can be done to re-instill trust in the system, especially when it means getting people to get crucial services performed. When it comes to getting certain procedures done like a flu shot or a mammogram, we know how life saving these services can be so it’s important that we encourage members of the most vulnerable communities to get them done. While I think bringing awareness to the issue of medical abuse is important, it leaves me wondering what the next step is. What will it take to foster a sense of trust in the medical system? Does it mean dismantling a system we know was built on scientific racism and if so, what would a new system look like?