“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know." It’s a phrase we’ve often heard in reference to business and social endeavors, but it turns out, this phrase is also true when it comes to health.

As much as we’d love for the health care industry to cater to everyone’s needs equally, the reality is that today’s black community has higher incidences of just about every major disease and condition out there, as well as shorter life spans.

Lifestyle recognition

Seeing a black doctor is like walking down the street and receiving a head nod from another black person walking by — it’s an acknowledgement of being seen, heard, and understood.

In order to understand the medical needs of the black community, a doctor would also have to understand the cultural realities of the black community. We know, for instance, that most diseases and illnesses can be prevented by adopting a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and moderate exercise. However some cultural traditions, like cooking and serving soul food, are love languages that are passed down through generations.

We also know that by reducing stress, we can reduce heart disease among other stress-related illnesses. At the same time, we know that a large percentage of the black population lives in low-income areas, and black adults often deal with financial worries, in addition to fears about neighborhood safety.

It’s this understanding that gives doctors the ability to not only assess the medical needs accurately, but also relate and adjust healing practices based on the patient. It’s not always as simple as giving a prescription and moving forward. Often, there’s a cultural undoing and retraining that needs to take place.

Building trust

There’s a lot of mistrust of the healthcare system. That mistrust, combined with all the contradictory information in the media today, makes it difficult to truly feel in control of your health, and your life. When surveyed by BlackDoctor.org, 90 percent of users stated that it’s ‘very important,’ to receive health information in a trusted, culturally relevant environment.

No, not all black people come from the same background or have the same experiences, but we do have a silent understanding of our shared history, and even the silent struggles we don’t readily open up about to our non-black counter parts.

Seeing a black doctor is like walking down the street and receiving a head nod from another black person walking by — it’s an acknowledgement of being seen, heard, and understood.