The international sensation, Amara La Negra, has teamed up with Dr. Karleena McDaniel to bridge the health gaps which disproportionately affect people of color, by way of Instagram Live.
There are currently more than 1.2 million cases of COVID-19 across the U.S., making it the country with the most confirmed infections and fatalities worldwide. The onset of the outbreak brought forth a hovering sense of fear — which debatably spread as quickly as the virus itself — particularly harming communities of color. A recent report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that African Americans were hospitalized more frequently than any other race, as a result of COVID-19. New York City released data surrounding the virus’ non-hospitalized, non-fatal hospitalized, and fatal cases. The recent study found that among all, Latinx and Black communities remain the most impacted.
It’s safe to say one effect of the pandemic is its ability to exacerbate the pre-existing health disparities that affect Latinx and African American communities. Historically, people of color remain prone to negative health outcomes, in general, due to a myriad of social and economic factors. A few contributing factors include: where someone lives, the types of jobs that they are employed in, income levels, and access to health care. The people within these groups are also more likely to be front-line workers and live in densely-populated neighborhoods. Moreover, those surrounded by both circumstances are prone to a higher death rate. It is clear: those who are facing the long list encompassing distinct forms of systematic oppression will endure consequences.
The anxiety that comes with a global pandemic may take a tumultuous route. As a result, many are struggling to get by as each day passes. It is important to focus on maintaining mental wellness to get through day-to-day objectives. Together, Amara La Negra and Dr. McDaniel are using social media to assist followers in finding their inner strength and suggest ways to utilize fitness and resilience despite the harrowing reality. Bearing this in mind, healthy ways to cope during these times vary case-by-case. Additionally, at-risk communities must identify the health disparities they are presented with and must locate resources to help overcome those obstacles.
The Afro-Latina entertainer, Amara La Negra, has recognized the needs of vulnerable communities whose battles are akin to her own. On May 2, she launched the ‘Stay Fit Saturdays’ web series via Instagram Live. The series aims to promote health and wellness while addressing the health inequalities faced by Latinx and African American people. During the first stream, she introduced her audience to the motivation behind the creation of the online campaign. The songstress explained how the forthcoming structure of streams will take place. She shared her dedication by forging a safe internet community where anyone, from any walk of life, is invited to partake alongside her. Viewers, also, have the choice of joining the pairs’ Stay Fit Crew — where members have the chance to receive prizes and rewards by staying connected.
Amara La Negra is not hesitating to take action beyond the limitations of Instagram. The starlet is ensuring that the at-risk groups are benefitting from her joint initiative in real-time. Doubling-down, she has partnered up with Dr.McDaniel — a bariatric surgeon based in Atlanta — the co-founder of Pro Blk Health Vitamins. This is a Black-owned vitamin company, and together their efforts are ensuring results. Dr. Karleena McDaniel and Amara La Negra have committed to donating 50% of all proceeds to non-profit organizations in the community. These will be organizations that target health and healing for people of color.
The Knockturnal caught up with Dr. Karleena McDaniel to discuss the power in providing resources, navigating an external public platform to encourage personal wellness, and learning the importance of living and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
The Knockturnal: How has your experience as a bariatric surgeon informed your current practice? Please elaborate, not only as a medical professional but as an advocate for addressing the disparities in health consciousness, too. These circumstances are particularly prevalent among people of color and their communities.
Dr. Karleena McDaniel: Bariatric surgery is a subspecialty that specifically uses surgical manipulation of the GI tract, to give morbidly obese people a tool to lose weight. This weight loss allows [these people] to not only reach a lower, and healthier weight, but the [procedure offers] real value. For example, it is the curing, or improving many common diseases proven to be caused or exacerbated by obesity. [There is a misconception about bariatric surgery,] which some people may say is solely a cosmetic benefit.
56% of African American women and 37% of African American men over the age of 20 are obese. Almost 20% of African American adults are diabetics, and at least 40% of us suffer from hypertension. We are more likely to die at earlier ages from all causes — compared to our Caucasian counterparts. With that said, daily, I see Black and Brown people who are young in age and old in disease. It breaks my heart. It’s personal to me and motivates me to be a more vocal advocate. [I hope my work is influential in] overcoming these disparities because I can see my family and my friends in the faces of thousands of patients I have seen over 15 years.
Whether it be the 23-year-old woman I see in the office — who is more than 200lbs overweight, prediabetic with sleep apnea — or the 42-year-old male in the ER who requires emergency surgery due to diabetes complications [there are concerns]. Most of what I see [that is to the detriment of the community] is due to lack of health awareness, access to health care for their issues, or generational mistrust of the healthcare system. Also, some people have a false sense of invincibility.
We often do not seek care until we are at extremes of disease or noticeably feel unwell. We don’t understand that disease presents on a spectrum that starts mild — and grows in intensity — if not recognized or checked. The societal and political basis of health disparities is so complicated.
I feel we need to focus our efforts on individual and community levels first. From there we can spread health education and consciousness to empower us. [We can achieve this] with the tools to start taking better care of ourselves while we are young. This is necessary before the pain and struggle of the disease show itself.
The Knockturnal: You are joining Amara La Negra for her ‘Stay Fit Saturdays’ web series each Saturday in May. How do you feel about connecting with a large audience and sharing your expertise with them? What topics can we expect to hear from you?
Dr. Karleena McDaniel: I am ecstatic about being able to partner with Amara for her web series! Besides her being a positive role model — in a relatively negative television and media space — she has the hearts and minds of young people. In life, you have to meet people where they are to reach them.
So, because she connects and relates to this impressionable population, she is perfect to help spread the word in real-time. She is also an example of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It all makes sense to work together to open the ears and eyes of people who may not have access to such information. Some people were never even inspired to take it seriously [before this].
I hope to be able to discuss topics, like the impact of obesity or how we can work against it. We will chat about the importance of different vitamins. Also, [viewers will learn] the symptoms that manifest from being deficient, and what foods contain rich sources of [nutrients]. We [will discuss] how COVID-19 is devastating minority communities.
The Knockturnal: What are some prevalent health disparities today? Also, why is highlighting them important to you? Can you explain how providing people with information to take charge of their health empowers them to maintain positive long-term effects?
Dr. Karleena McDaniel: Common health disparities that plague our community are the uninsured, and underinsured are higher [with people of color] than in other communities. This makes it difficult to promote preventative care. Additionally, I share the importance of regular checkups with a primary care provider, as well as, [beneficial] medications. Many neighborhoods are in food deserts, where there is a lack of access to fresh produce.
This makes it a continuous challenge to enforce healthy eating and diets when people cannot get to healthier options. Bearing this in mind, lower socioeconomic and education households are often at the mercy of overcrowded environments. They often have suboptimal conditions.
All of these [factors] can add stress and aggravate diseases. A quote to keep in mind is, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” For many people, the power of information can be key to equip them to better take care of themselves or their loved ones. The decisions we make today, shape our tomorrow.
The Knockturnal: What are some routines that you partake in, to help meet your health and wellness goals, amid this pandemic?
Dr. Karleena McDaniel: Being an essential health worker during this time has proven to have its pros and cons. The obvious con is that every day I am exposing myself to the invisible face of COVID-19. Thus, I have a greater chance of getting sick myself or infecting my husband, whom I love and live with. A pro is that going to work every day, has allowed me to keep some sort of routine.
I have a regular change of scenery from my home, which can be therapeutic. It gives me a break from my four walls I return to every day. I get to see my staff, some of whom I consider friends. This is nice, as I have not seen my ‘regular’ friends in over two months. [We do not connect if we are] not behind some sort of digital screen.
Also, I take long walks through the neighborhood. I exercise at home or in the park during off-peak hours. Mental health is as important as physical health. So, things like digital happy hours and game nights have helped keep us connected to our family. I cannot forget. Now I get to catch up on different shows and series that I did not make time for before. That, too, breaks up the monotony and can be a stress reliever.