Event examines impact of systemic racism on Alzheimer’s disease and African Americans

In case you missed it, you can watch a recording of the most recent Addressing Systemic Racism webinar here.

The December 18 event examined the impact of systemic racism on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, beginning with a presentation by Gina Green-Harris, MBA. Green-Harris holds multiple leadership roles at UW, including Director of the WAI Regional Milwaukee Office, Director of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health Center for Community Engagement and Health Partnerships (CCEAHP) in Milwaukee, Director of the All of Us Research program in Milwaukee, and Director of the Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF).

As a person who has worked in the field of dementia and people of color since 2008, Green-Harris said she has experienced a change in the willingness of African Americans to discuss and confront realities of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. “We’ve come a long way,” she said. “I remember the days we started talking about dementia and people of color and getting lots of closed doors… so we had to look at why that is happening.”

African Americans face a higher burden of incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The systemic effects of racism in America impact incidence of disease, later diagnosis and access to treatment and care.

The panel discussion at the program included Bashir Easter, PhD, Assistant Director of UW All of US Milwaukee. Dr. Easter said while there has been some change in recognizing the impact of Alzheimer’s disease in the African American community, there is still a struggle.

“It is still seen as a white person’s disease, an old white person’s disease,” he said. “People with our faces, we do not get the support in time, and even in research we do not get the support. We have a higher rate and at a younger age. Where’s the outcry?”

Stephanie Houston, MBA, Outreach Specialist at WAI Regional Milwaukee Office, joined the panel discussion. She said the best thing professionals can do is honor the people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. It starts with making sure they get a diagnosis, making sure they see people of color working in the clinics, and building trust. Recalling a person she met who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s late despite being under the care of a physician, she said: “I am still very appalled that a person who has been seeing a doctor for fifteen years, that the doctor did not see symptoms.”

Read more about the Addressing Systemic Racism education series and watch past events.