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Editorial By Nehemiah D. Frank
What is a Black Disease?
Since our arrival to the so called “New World,” African-Americans have consistently and significantly remained disproportionately affected by life threatening diseases. Scholars in our community refer to these ailments as “Black Diseases;” illnesses that seemingly appear to target Black Lives, and sickle cell disease (SCD) is one of the most painful. SCD affects 1 out of every 365 African-Americans in the U.S. In contrast, only 1 in every 16,300 Latino Americans have the disease, and that number for White Americans is even lower.
Although a significant proportion of African Americans have sickle cell, SCD is still considered to be a rare disease according to the CDC in part because it does not affect White Americans like it does African-Americans.
How Do People Develop Sickle Cell?
According to Supporters of Families with Sickle Cell Disease, Inc., “Sickle Cell Disease affects millions of people throughout the world and is particularly common among those with ancestry from sub-Saharan Africa.”
However, although SCD disproportionately affects people of sub-Saharan ancestry, persons of any ethnicity may develop the disorder.
Sickle cell passes from generation to generation genetically; 1 out of every 13 African-American babies born in the U.S. carries the sickle cell trait or SCT. Moreover, both parents must be carriers of the trait in order to pass the trait to the next generation. Only then does the offspring have a 1 in 4 chance of developing the sickle cell.
Sickle cell trait (SCT) is not a mild form of sickle cell disease. Having SCT only means that a person carries a single gene for sickle cell disease and can pass this gene along to their children. Individuals with SCT usually do not have any of the symptoms of SCD, and they live a relatively healthy life.
How Sickle Cell Affects African-Americans
Amid a life expectancy gap in the city of Tulsa, where African Americans live 10.7 years less than residents in other parts of the city, there is no cure for sickle cell. As a result, its classification as a rare disease means inadequate funding from the federal and state government, as well as private funders. Consequently, funding is much lower in comparison to diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which affects in 4 out of 100,000 and mostly affects White males.
People living with sickle cell have a life expectancy of 2 or 3 decades less than the average citizen.
“Patients and families who live with sickle cell face daily challenges and encounter many health problems such as stroke, acute chest syndrome, blindness, cognitive delays, organ failure and death,” says Velvet Brown, the Founder and Chairperson at the Supporters of Families with Sickle Cell Disease, Inc., in north Tulsa.
For children with the disease, they frequently miss classroom time, which can be difficult for working parents. Furthermore, the disease is makes becoming an academic success difficult.
How To Make A Difference
The Supporters of Families with Sickle Cell Disease, Inc. hosts an annual race for the cure. This year, the race will be held in Tulsa, Okla., in the historic Greenwood District. Preregistration ends next Wednesday, September 6, 2017.
The 2017 Sickle Cell 5K Race will be Saturday, September 9, 2017, on Greenwood Ave., beginning in deep Greenwood at First Baptist Church and will run through the OSU Campus on through Black Wall Street.
Pre-registration ends next Wednesday, September 6, 2017. The race begins Saturday, September 9, 2017 at 9 a.m. To register for the 5K Race and help end this painful disease that affects our population, register at bit.ly/sicklecell5k2017. For more information or to become a sponsor, contact Jeremiah Watts (918) 619-6174.