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PBL11 Tackles Black American Health Discrepancies

pbl tackles black american health discrepanciesFor its latest exhibition, PBL11 students created museum artifacts demonstrating their learning on a variety of issues impacting the health of Black Americans. Focusing on this year’s Black History Month theme of “Black Health and Wellness,” the show was staged at the high school on Wednesday, Feb. 23 and Thursday, Feb. 24.  

Through the topics of medical malpractice, food access, historical mistrust, medical achievements, COVID-19, organ donation and redlining, students illustrated the systemic barriers to healthcare many Black Americans face when seeking medical services for even the most basic health issues.

Artifacts included a LED-lit map illustrating the correlation between access to food and type2 diabetes in the Delaware Valley; laser-cut wooden certificates lauding African American medical achievements, including Marilyn Hughes Gaston for preventing sickle cell in infants and Patricia Bath for advancements in ocular health research; the use of railroad tracks and model homes to illustrate access to the COVID-19 vaccine; a wreath of fake one hundred dollar bills and surgical masks doused in blood droplets showing the devastating effects of COVID-19 on Black communities across the country; the discrepancies in organ transplants between people of color and whites; and medical malpractice focusing on misdiagnosis, childbirth and the Tuskegee experiments.

The effects of the coronavirus have not been equal across the board. In the United States, sobering statistics and personal experiences illustrate how communities of color, in particular African American communities, have been disproportionately ravaged by the virus compared with their white counterparts. 

Students asked numerous questions as part of this project: Why have African Americans been more than twice as likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than white Americans? How can it be that nearly one in 500 African Americans has been killed by COVID? How have larger social, institutional, psychological, cultural, historic, and economic factors contributed to the state of Black American health in the year 2022?

Special thanks to the National Education Association for funding the project through a grant.