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Health advocates Gibson, Sweeney speak on panel about health disparities

Sam Keimweiss

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Students and faculty attended the conference held by the Health Disparities Club, where Co-Chair of the Committee on Health Disparities for the Medical Society of New York State Dr. Monica M. Sweeney and Bronx 16th Council District Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson spoke on issues surrounding health and health disparities.
Sweeney and Gibson gave speeches during D period and participated in a panel discussion during E period in the Recital Hall on January 17th.
The two speakers discussed a variety of issues, from disparities in health services to the legalization of marijuana.
In her speech, Sweeney talked about the challenges facing black communities due to white privilege.
“If you have chest pain when you’re a black woman it’s hysteria, it’s anxiety. If you have chest pain when you’re a white male, it’s heart disease,” Sweeney said.
Chemistry teacher Dr. Ndeye Diop-Bove was surprised by the fact that racial discrimination in health care is still happens today, Diop-Bove said. “I had no idea,” she said.
Gibson, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, has been on the city council since 2013 and works towards bettering the lives of those in minority communities, Gibson said. She looks at gun violence through the lens of health and the subsequent partnership between the city and the Cure Violence anti-violence program, which tries to stop violence through anti-gun violence activists and various organizations, Gibson said.
“Often times you don’t hear about the good things that are happening, but more so the bad things,” she said.
“When I think about inequality or injustice I don’t often think about it through the lens of medicine and health,” English Department Chair Vernon Wilson said. Wilson brought his 12th grade creative writing workshop to the D period speeches, he said.
Club Founder and President Malhaar Agrawal (10) led the panel, in which he and the audience asked the visitors questions regarding health disparities, the Affordable Care Act, and drugs.
When a student asked about the legalization of marijuana, Sweeney addressed the history of the drug and the institutional racism behind the laws that govern it. “It was a war on black people that got the whole marijuana thing started,” Sweeney said.
“It benefits us to learn about the stark differences in disparities in all sorts of fields,” Richard He (11), who attended the discussion, said.
Vivien Sweet (9) enjoyed learning about the subject, which she was already interested in. She felt the symposium was more politically focused than she thought it would be. However, she enjoyed the political aspect. “I thought it was really cool how [Gibson] was fighting for so many people’s rights,” Sweet said.
The event was hosted by the new Health Disparities Club. “The club is a collection of HM students passionate about justice in minority communities who want to bring parity to the health care system,” Club Founder and President Malhaar Agrawal (10) said.
Aneesh Bafna (10) is leading the Health Disparities Club’s next effort, an attempt to add Health Disparities to the 10th grade health course. According to Bafna, the club has already reached out to health teacher Amy Mojica and discussed a potential unit in which health disparities would be introduced and taught to sophomores.

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Health advocates Gibson, Sweeney speak on panel about health disparities