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The Intersectionality of Belonging and Health Equity: A Letter to Dr. King

Yoli Alovor, PhD - January 11, 2021

Dear Dr. King,

Next Monday will mark the 35th anniversary to commemorate your legacy. On this day, we reflect on your commitment to advance justice in all sectors of our society. With this celebration, we are often reminded of some of your most profound and powerful quotes. Quotes such as “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”[1] and “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”[2] Those are two that come to my mind. And while those quotes are undoubtedly noteworthy and hold great merit, I thought it most appropriate to call attention to one of your lesser-known quotes.

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”[3]

This quote on the injustice and inhumanity of health inequity is not known to many outside of the medical community. Your words in this quote are scarcely associated with your devotion to justice and impartiality, yet health inequity is beyond a doubt the most pertinent issue confronting our nation today. You see Dr. King, as I write this letter to you, we are faced with one of the most challenging health crises in our modern history.

It is amid this health pandemic that your visionary words about injustice in health care sparked my heart. And while I desperately would like to say that since you last spoke these words, much has changed, regrettably I must confess, it has not. As we continue to battle the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many curtains have been pulled back. Society has been made more keenly aware not only of the disproportionate effects that Covid-19 has on disenfranchised communities, but the grave inadequacies and injustices in access to quality health care for this population overall. And since, Dr. King, you may not be familiar with this dreaded disease, suffice it to say that it has killed hundreds of thousands in this nation, and millions worldwide. 

While research in our medical and academic communities acknowledge the profound effects that systematic racism and implicit biases within our healthcare systems have on the health outcomes, unfortunately, the battle remains. Yes, Dr. King, while we have made tremendous strides with identifying a multitude of factors that contribute to the health outcomes of the impoverished, including the social determinants of health, we must fully understand and address these factors to enact real change.

This, Dr. King, is where I beckon your spirit of hope. If there is one thing that we always celebrate about you on this day of your legacy, it is your commitment to hope in the face of despair. You would be proud to know that I belong to a College community that echoes this sentiment. Rosemont is committed to addressing the needs of the disenfranchised and the health inequities that impede growth. We take very seriously the oppressive nature that scarcity and lack of education have on health. Thus, the Rosemont community has committed to ensuring that we address the needs of our students by embracing whole-person health. Our 2021 commitment will ensure an integrated health care model designed to provide students with efficient services delivered on a holistic level. Our efforts will concentrate on the intersection of physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being.  

Dr. King, Rosemont’s campus is a community that, even in the midst of this pandemic, has acknowledged an opportunity to uphold our mission and stand much like you did as a crusader for health. In fact, we spent over 20 hours listening to our campus about their thoughts on belonging, and attention to health was a resounding theme. Hence, we have committed to moving beyond simply empathizing with the struggles of the unserved, to a drive towards action on how to better serve those in need. This proactive approach is designed to create pathways to preventative health and combat the health devastations of a misplaced sense of belonging.

Dr. King, Rosemont remembers your words on the importance of health equity and is committed to the actions of these words. We do so by not only embracing diversity and belonging to memorialize your legacy, but also through our values which make our campus stronger and better equipped to provide optimum support for our students.

We are at a crossroads, Dr. King. I want to leave you with biblical words from Proverbs 13:12:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”[4]

Hope and action are at the very heart of Rosemont’s commitment to the fight for health equity. Your message lives within us. I am excited about our persistence and dedication to the health needs of our campus.  I am excited about a journey in which the inequality and inhumanity in health are diminished by our assurance to see the value of how a just and equitable healthcare system will flourish and sustain mankind.  

With Love and Sincerity,

- Yoli Alovor, PhD

[1] Banks, J. A. (2003). Teaching literacy for social justice and global citizenship. Language Arts, 81(1), 18.

[2] King Jr, M. L. (2014). Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Hastings Women’s Law Journal, 29,1.  

[3] Galarneau, C. (2018). Getting King's Words Right. Journal of health care for the poor and underserved, 29(1), 5-8.

[4] The New Oxford Annotated Bible: With the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, NeRevised Standard Version. Michael D. Coogan, editor. New York: Oxford UP, 2001. Print.