Philadelphia’s health department invited the director of health programs for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to speak with city and community leaders about the institutional and societal structures that hinder health and support racism.
“Health equity” is high on the agenda for the NAACP, says Shavon Arline-Bradley.
“I think a lot of people think we just service a certain kind of people. We service anyone that’s being discriminated against,” she said.
Arline-Bradley, who’s originally from Camden, says the debate over the federal Affordable Care Act has uncovered unequal access to health care for many populations.
“Sometimes there are unintended consequences as you are making plans for a community to get healthier,” she said.
As an example, she’s watched as cities add patrols to make parks and playgrounds safer, while making those spaces less welcoming for some in the process.
“Because a young person may have a hip-hop look, they assume they might be getting into trouble, when quite frankly all they are trying to do is use the park,” she said. “They have a different type of dress, so people assume and they begin profiling.”
“Sometimes we miss issues around race, and we miss issues around class,” Arline-Bradley said.
Missing those issues, she says, can have profound repercussions on a community’s health care and wellness.
“The color of your skin, the amount of money that you make and the ZIP code that you live in can affect the type of health care that you receive,” she said. “That’s why it’s a civil rights issue, and why it’s my passion.”