African-American health issues are often ignored by the medical industry. Even African Americans sometimes overlook medical conditions that plague the black community. But a new online video and social media website focused on the health issues of African-American consumers and physicians, hopes to focus in on the health and well being of the African-American community. Called Blackhealthtv.com, it bills itself as the first ever academically based, health information website for African Americans.
The birth of Blackhealthtv.com came out of a shocking dinner conversation co-founder Dr. Corey Hebert had with friends. “About two years ago, I was having dinner at a Mexican restaurant with a group of African American colleagues. When the fajitas arrived at our table, one of the gentlemen felt grease pop on his skin. He immediately said, "Quick, I need to get some butter,” recalls Hebert, an award-winning medical journalist and frequent contributor to the Dr. Oz. Show. “As a physician, I thought to myself, he couldn’t be serious. I admonished, "You're not going to put butter on that burn! That's the worst thing you could ever do." He defended vehemently, "My mom and grandma always told me I should put butter on a burn." Even though I was the only physician at the table, everyone argued that butter was the best way to treat a burn.”
The dinner companions turned to the Internet to see who was right. “At that point, I realized that there was no offering for African-American health that was standardized, academically-based and interactive on the Internet,” explains Hebert. “Furthermore, if these college-educated black folks didn’t know basic first aid, then I had to do something to make health information available to all African Americans despite socioeconomic and education levels.”
It's one thing to have an idea. It's another to get it up and running. And Hebert was soon to find that when asking for start-up money, he would hit many walls. He had teamed up with two businessmen for the venture--Brooklyn natives, Cary and Keith Wheelous, both Wall Street financial analysts, had seen Herbert on the Dr. Oz show. “You might be surprised to know that it is quite a challenge for three black men to get start-up money for a tech website in America,” says Hebert with a chuckle. “Therefore, my partners and I funded this venture with personal resources because we strongly believe in BlackhealthTV.com’s ability to change the way African Americans receive health information.” And although it is currently operating, the founders are meeting with venture capital investors to obtain additional funding sources.
BlackhealthTV is not alone on the market. There are other black health websites such as BlackDoctor.org. But Herbert stresses there are key differences. “We are the largest, most innovative, academically based health website for African-Americans, bar none,” he says. “Our libraries are enormous and we are constantly producing new online video. Our site is not only ´doctor stuff´. It's also nutrition, headed by celebrity chef, Nikki Shaw. Our fitness platform is headed by celebrity fitness guru, Jordan Vappie. We even have a celebrity women’s health specialist, OB-GYN Dr. Tosha Rogers. We also offer up-to-the-minute health news and daily health tips co-branded by Harvard University.” The site sends out these health tips via e-mail every day.
The way BlackhealthTV packages the information also makes it unique—and more palpable to African Americans, claims Hebert. “Most cultures embrace unique communication styles within the group. At BlackhealthTV.com, we are the only website to deliver African Americans the interactive, unique information that we need to make healthy choices about our lives, relationships and well-being,” he explains.
Because each culture looks at health differently, Herbert says the company will expand to offer Latino health TV.com, Asian health TV.com, and other multicultural verticals to address the unique health needs of all cultures.
According to Herbert, BlackhealthTV strives to not only to present the health information in a readily accessible manner, it also wants to give out correct and up-to-date data. “Generally, African-Americans get their health information from online videos and forums on the Internet that are non-standardized. To eliminate this quandary, my company approached Harvard University and Morehouse School of Medicine to be strategically involved in this endeavor. They agreed wholeheartedly with our mission and it has been a great relationship,” says Hebert, who is also the Medical Director for Dillard University, the Medical Director for the Louisiana Recovery School District, the Chief Medical Editor at WDSU-NBC and an Asst. Professor at Tulane University Medical Center.
Blacks have a long-held mistrust of the medical industry, often foregoing medical treatment because of it. But Herbert hope that his site will educate Blacks on health issues and make them more comfortable and confident when seeking medical help. “In my opinion, African-American people are afraid and distrusting of institutional medicine for several reasons. Historically, African American people have grown up with knowledge about the Tuskegee experiment and its detrimental impact on the Black community. Furthermore, all people, no matter your race or ethnicity are apprehensive about the unknown,” Hebert points out. “Of course, in slavery times, African Americans weren’t allowed to read which all but made it impossible to be educated on any subject matter. Presently, African Americans have had decreased access to health care and health information due to poverty and other socio-economic factors…These factors combined with the historic distrust of the medical community contributes to African American people’s hesitancy to interact with the physicians and institutional health care facilities.”
BlackhealthTV covers a range of topics from women's health to understanding diabetes to the health benefits of breastfeeding.
“For the first time, an African American person who is not literate on medical issues can get on-demand health information. That's a very powerful thing because we all know that knowledge is power. Our website is largely online video. This means that when a user searches for ´diabetes´ on Blackhealthtv.com., they retrieve a high-definition video of a licensed African-American physician providing one-on-one advice,” describes Hebert.
BlackhealthTV might be coming at an opportune time. Despite the mistrust of the medical industry, African Americans are turning more and more to the Internet for health and wellness advice. “African-Americans, believe it or not, have downloaded more health apps for iPhones than any other ethnic group;” notes Hebert. “African-Americans search the web for health information more than any other ethnic group. Moreover, we search the web for health insurance and weight loss, more than any other ethnic group…BlackhealthTV.com is the only website offering interactive, culturally-sensitive health information on the web.”