NATIONWIDE – The glaring realities facing the Black community’s health and well-being are in a state of emergency. Whether it is high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, various forms of cancer or obesity, Blacks in many cases have the unfortunate distinction as the leading sufferers of these health maladies.
Dr. Corey Hebert aims to help tackle these dilemmas via cyberspace, with the launch of BlackHealthTV.com, an online social media and video website geared toward a community overwrought with preventable and treatable ailments and diseases.
Launched in October, Dr. Hebert hopes by making health information available online in an interactive format more people will be privy to information that can save their lives or at the very least help them make more well-informed health decisions.
“I was sitting at a table in New York with a bunch of very educated African Americans and one of the guys at the table had a Ph.D. from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and he burned himself with a plate at the table,” explained Dr. Hebert when asked what inspired him to launch BlackHealthTV.com.
“The first thing he told me was, ‘Man let me get some butter so I can put it on this burn.’ And I explained to him that’s the worst thing that you could ever put on a burn. You should never put butter on a burn,” Dr. Herbert told The Final Call in an exclusive interview. Applying butter on a burn can cause infection.
The man continued to insist butter was the answer telling Dr. Hebert, “trust me.”
“I said trust you? I’m a medical doctor and I’m telling you that you’re not supposed to put butter on a burn … everybody at the table disagreed with me,” said Dr. Hebert.
That encounter led him to conduct a poll of 1,000 Black people across the country of varying socio-economic status and education levels. The results said Dr. Hebert was 85 percent thought butter was the correct first-aid remedy.
“The lack of information is appalling and we know that whatever was out there is not working because the health disparities are increasing. If they’re increasing I just felt I had to do something,” continued Dr. Hebert, an award-winning medical journalist and regular contributor on the Dr. OZ Show.
Indeed, the statistics are daunting. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the news regarding Black Americans and optimum health is not good.
Black men have higher rates of getting and dying from prostate cancer. Black women are 1.4 times more likely to die from breast cancer than White women. Blacks are more likely to die from asthma.
An estimated 3.7 million or 14.7 percent of all non-Hispanic Blacks age 20 and older have diabetes, the leading cause of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
In 2009 a staggering 44 percent of all new HIV infections were Black, despite being only 14 percent of the total U.S. population, and 45 percent of Black adults are obese.
What makes BlackHealthTV.com unique is that it is not text heavy, but features video presentations with health tips, health news, recipes, and information on children’s health.
Visitors to the site can also sign up to receive “health tips of the day” via email.
Using modern technology is an opportunity for more access to information, and though Blacks still lag somewhat behind when it comes to the “digital divide,” the gap is closing.
The Pew Research Center notes that 44 percent of Blacks are smart phone users and are more likely than Whites to use their cell phones for accessing Internet and multimedia content. The percentage of Blacks that use the Internet increased from 35 percent in 2000 to 71 percent in 2011, according to Pew.
It is this reason; BlackHealthTV.com is formatted different than other health websites explained Dr. Hebert.
“African Americans search for “health” more than any other group on the Internet and have downloaded more health apps for iPhones than any other group,” said Dr. Hebert, co-founder and CEO of the site.
Other health sites are mostly written word, which can be intimidating to many, he explained.
“I have friends that are Master’s degree people that really can’t decipher some of the stuff on WEB M.D., so the only way that an African American or any minority group or any majority group for that matter can get information and really understand it is if it’s delivered in a way that makes them feel very comfortable,” said Dr. Hebert.
The online video concept grew from there he explained.
“When I start off my videos about diabetes and they start off by saying, ‘You got sugar. Let me tell you what sugar is.’ It puts African Americans at rest about the anxiety about his or her diabetes because I’m speaking to them in a way that they understand and they can appreciate,” said the Baton Rouge, La. native who was raised by a single mother and went on to graduate Morehouse College and Meharry Medical College.
Dr. Hebert said the most important thing to him is that for the first time, a Black person who may not be able to read can now access health information on demand.
Through BlackHealthTV.com, Dr. Hebert plans to link up with other Black organizations.
“That’s my goal. To partner with every Black organization in America and have our content be available to them on their website and any other way that they’d like to get it. We also envision in the long term to be able to have an actual television network called Black Health TV where we have all health content for African Americans, twenty-four seven,” said Dr. Hebert who specializes in pediatrics and emergency medicine.
Making sure the Black community has easy to access information to guide them toward making wiser choices when it comes to their health is what drives Dr. Hebert, who has been featured also on the Discovery Channel, The Oprah Winfrey Show and other major networks.
“I had never been to a classroom with Black people until I got to Morehouse College and that really changed my life and I knew at that point that I was going to have to take care of my people, at all cost. I don’t care what I have to do, I’m going to make sure that at the very least that an African American man or woman can make a poor choice but that poor choice that they make is based on the education that they have and that’s a choice that they’ve really made,” he explained.
The poor health and dietary choices Black people continue to make, said Dr. Hebert are not based on education or fact, something he hopes will eventually change.
“Before I die, you’re going to have all the facts in your mind and if you want to choose to do the wrong thing, that’s your choice. That’s what White people have; that’s what Hispanic people are being able to get right now; that’s what we need to have too and that’s the goal for me. To make sure that I empower every African American, or African for that matter, to have the health information that they need to make the right decisions for their health,” said Dr. Hebert.
By Starla Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call