In a 1966 speech, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.” “Injustice in health” doesn’t only include injustice in healthcare, such as the infamous Tuskegee study, or bias in care delivery. It includes the social determinants of health, such as education, wealth, housing, and more — issues that MassChallenge HealthTech and our partner the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission will continue to cover during our Health Equity Event Series over the coming months.
From slavery, to the Jim Crow era, to modern day gentrification, food deserts, and mass incarceration, systemic racism in America has led to severe racial health disparities. In light of these injustices, BIPOC leaders have been instrumental in advancing more equitable and effective health outcomes. For example, as early as 1864, Rebecca Lee Crumpler battled severe racism and sexism to become the first African-American woman to earn an MD degree in the United States.
During the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. John L. S. Holloman Jr. was a founder of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, which advocated for desegregating medical organizations, and Dr. Leonidas Berry helped organize the Flying Black Medics and became President of the National Medical Association, renowned both for his fight against racial discrimination in medicine and his pioneering innovations in the field of gastroenterology. In 1965, Dr. Patricia Bath co-founded the Student National Medical Association at Howard University, and went on to invent a laser cataract treatment, becoming the first Black woman to receive a medical patent in the U.S.
Ultimately these efforts helped desegregate the medical industry — but desegregation didn’t ensure access and affordability. Combatting this, Black activists like Bobby Seale helped establish free clinics across the country that not only provided medical services but also championed community education, prevention, and poverty alleviation. These clinics contributed significantly to our understanding of public health today.
In 1965, recognizing the inextricable links between poverty, discrimination, and health, the first community health centers were founded in Mound Bayou, Mississippi and Dorchester, Massachusetts. These centers provided comprehensive services including health and nutrition education, preventative care, and social work. They also served as community hubs, empowering those they served, and the combined ideals of equity, community, and innovation inspired many over the next fifty years. Today, community centers provide comprehensive care for over 29 million Americans, oftentimes more efficiently and effectively than traditional counterparts.
Ultimately, in the face of tremendous obstacles, Black activists, leaders, and innovators have consistently come together to advance more equitable and impactful modern healthcare and public health systems, and Black leaders remain on the frontlines of the fight for health equity, particularly these past few years.
Black Entrepreneurs in the MassChallenge community making strides to continue to transform healthcare:
Butterflly Health | California
Butterflly is a Digital Therapeutics Company focused on Behavioral Health for underserved populations. We leverage the therapeutic power of peer groups using social media-styled tools inside secure private networks while offering tools for well-being including mindfulness,CBT, coaching and teletherapy. We deliver a patient-focused experience that is safe, evidenced based, highly personalized, de-stigmatized and designed to fit into a person’s life when and how they want it.
HUED | Washington D.C.
HUED is a technology-enabled platform that provides Black and Latino communities access to culturally-competent healthcare providers. Where these populations generally experience poorer health outcomes due to fear, distrust, comfortability and lack of access to quality medical care, there’s an increased need for culturally-competent healthcare providers who specifically understand their physical, mental, and cultural needs.
Part of the 2021 MassChallenge HealthTech cohort, HUED’s founder Kimberly Wilson is also their lead storyteller.
Wolomi | Washington D.C.
Wolomi is the only digital community and app that offers support to women of color to improve maternal health outcomes. It was founded by a registered nurse & maternal health care expert focused on guiding and supporting aspiring moms and moms-to-be to enjoy their pregnancy journey. Its mobile app, offers the only pregnancy companion made by women of color for women of color.
Part of the 2021 MassChallenge HealthTech cohort, Wolomi’s founder and CEO is Layo George.
WearWorks | New York
At WearWorks, we build products and experiences that communicate information through touch. Our first product, Wayband, is a wrist-wearable haptic navigation device that communicates navigation information through touch. And in 2017, it helped guide the first person who was blind to run in the NYC marathon without sighted assistance.
Part of the 2021 MassChallenge HealthTech cohort, WearWorks Co-Founder and Head of Haptics/Customer Success is Keith Kirland.
Meetcaregivers | Massachusetts
Meetcaregivers is an innovative marketplace for senior care. Intelligently connecting seniors with great caregivers, care products and technology tools they need to age healthy and happy at home.
Part of the 2017 MassChallenge HealthTech cohort, Meetcaregivers founder and CEO is Florence Furaha.
Moving Analytics | California
Moving Analytics is a tele-health company with a mission to rid the world of heart disease, through virtual programs that empower people to adopt heart-healthy lifestyles and reduce their risk of suffering a major cardiovascular event. Our flagship product is Movn, a comprehensive virtual cardiac rehab program designed to support patients who have recently experienced an acute cardiac event in their recovery. Our programs were developed in collaboration with Stanford Medicine and are based on 20+ years of research.
Part of the 2020 MassChallenge HealthTech cohort, Moving Analytics co-founder and President is Ade Adesanya.
Are you a business or individual interested in supporting any of these companies in their growth? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.