As a leading advocacy organization and change agent born of 32 years of service to the African American community, the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA) today announced a major development – an organizational evolution to become a comprehensive advocacy, action and policy group that is moving beyond HIV/AIDs to address multiple health issues and disparities affecting African Americans. Moving forward, NBLCA will now be known as the National Black Leadership Commission on Health (NBLCH) Inc., furthering its mission of advocacy and empowerment to include eight key areas of disparities in Black health: HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, sickle cell, diabetes and mental health. Each of these areas affect African Americans at vastly disproportionate levels in comparison to other racial/ethnic groups and thus NBLCH, or Black Health, was formed.
“Championing Black health through advocacy, policy and action is the main goal of our newly-expanded organization,” says C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO. “As NBLCA, we have had great success in helping to educate, mobilize and empower communities around HIV/AIDS, and are now taking on the mantle of broader services to move beyond health disparity to achieve health equity for African Americans across the country.”
The change comes after an intensive review and research effort by NBLCA’s leadership to delve into the health needs of African Americans and other marginalized groups as our culture and society continue to shift away from the issue. The results compelled NBLCA to re-evaluate its programs and mission to include expanded levels of service as well as a re-affirmation of its commitment to the health and well-being of African Americans overall.
“With HIV/AIDS still a major health disparity and concern within the African American community, our fundamental commitment to this issue has not changed,” says the Honorable Johnny Ford, chairman of the board, NBLCH. “Given the degree of health disparities, and frankly despair, within communities of color as it relates to health, it’s only natural for us to take the skills, relationships and knowledge we have learned in the battle against HIV/AIDS to a larger platform—not just Black AIDS, but Black Health.”
The new branding for the NBLCH includes a new logo and key communications elements across several areas, including the website. The new URL is www.NBLCH.org. The new logo is in keeping with the tradition of the beloved NBLCA logo with a reference to the African kente cloth-inspired ribbon and wording that positions the organization as a health group, one that continues to fight the HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C crisis but also evolved to embrace Black health overall. Additional materials will be unveiled in the coming weeks to include a new brochure and refreshed social media channels.
“The facts are sobering, African Americans are affected by diseases and other health challenges much more so than any other group,” says Dr. Bert Petersen, treasurer of the board and noted oncologist. “As an oncologist, treating and caring for women impacted by breast cancer, I am all too aware of the tremendous need for this level of education, advocacy and awareness. This is therefore much more than a name change, this is an institutional evolution that accurately reflects our status as a recognized, respected and valued leader in affecting change in policy, action and the conversation around Black health. And in the process, we are striving to transform lives.”
That the incidence of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, sickle cell, diabetes and mental illness is higher among African Americans than other groups is supported by numerous studies and research conducted by the CDC and other health-related organizations. A dedicated focus on this area relative to affecting policy and change is what inspired the formation of NBLCH.
More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic African American men and women have high blood pressure, and breast cancer is the most common cancer in Black women. There are 70,000-100,000 cases of sickle cell in the U.S. and it occurs among about 1 out of every 500 African American births. And, compared to the general population, African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes, with 13.2% of all African Americans aged 20 years or older have diagnosed diabetes. This translates into African Americans being 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites.
Finally, according to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Common mental health disorders among African Americans include major depression, ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), suicide (particularly among young African American men), post-traumatic stress disorder, as African Americans are more likely to be victims of violent crime.
In the coming months, NBLCH will be working with influencers from a broad spectrum of fields– ranging from healthcare leaders, policymakers and advocates to those in the education, human service, media and philanthropic communities. In this manner, NBLCH is proactively working to bridge the divide in health and human services for Black people by driving the conversation into action.
The new National Black Leadership Commission on Health will carry out the legacy of NBLCA, the nation’s oldest non-profit organization dedicated to educating, mobilizing, and empowering Black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other infectious disease areas. With the evolution to NBLCH, the organization will champion the promotion of health and prevention of diseases to reduce disparities and achieve equity within the Black community. The long-term vision is therefore to reduce disparities and achieve equity to promote the health and well-being of Black communities through advocacy, policy, and action. The goal will be to promote health education, awareness and prevention, while influencing public policy to produce systemic change.