Black nurses open clinics for the poor

Victims of Hurricane Katrina are overwhelmingly poor and black. New Orleans is a 70% African-American city – the third poorest in the US – with a 40% illiteracy rate.

One of the most critical issues affecting African-Americans is the widening gap in health care between African-Americans and others.

Compared to whites, the infant mortality rate is twice as high, coronary heart disease is 40% more, women have a higher death rate from breast cancer, and the death rate from HIV/AIDS is seven times higher.

Reducing this health gap is the aim of the National Black Nurses’ Association which represents 150,000 African-American nurses.

The NBNA’s 76 chapters offer countless voluntary hours of community health screenings and outreach services on high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancer, mental health and other issues of concern to their communities.

The New Orleans chapter of the NBNA hosted the Association’s national conference in 2003.

Determined to use the conference to highlight the health problems of their community, the local nurses worked to create an event which answered community needs and reflected a nurse’s calling – helping people to achieve better health.

The group transformed the historic New Zion Baptist Church into a community health clinic.

Hundreds of neighborhood residents entered the church to receive free medical and social services – everything from vision screens to cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure tests – provided by the conference delegates supported by local agencies.

The event reflected the NBNA’s mission to provide a forum for collective action by African-American nurses to work to provide African-Americans and other minorities ‘health care commensurate with that of the larger society.’