Goshen, N.Y. – Orange County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman and the rest of the Department is pleased to recognize the many contributions Black Americans have made to public health during Black History Month, which is celebrated annually in February.
Roberta “Bobbie” Glinton is a former Orange County Public Health Nursing Supervisor and life-long resident of Port Jervis. In addition to her dedication to public health nursing, she was a compassionate and devoted volunteer within the community and was awarded the first Orange County Department of Health Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Service in 1983.
Bobbie lent her time to many organizations, centered around children, education and the sick and elderly. She was a member of the Board of Directors for the Bon Secours Community Hospital in Port Jervis as well as the Bon Secours Charity Health System Board, and in 2007, the hospital named their new medical office building in honor of her.
Grace Clegg, a City of Newburgh resident her entire life, was a dedicated Orange County Department of Health employee for 21 years. Grace fought tirelessly against the inner-city burden of childhood lead poisoning, working with hundreds of families so that affected children could receive the care and services they needed. She was a guiding light and a fierce advocate for three generations of Newburgh families in need. “Miss Grace” was available to the community morning, noon and night and was the “adopted” mother, godmother and grandmother to many.
Grace was a leader in many community organizations as well, including Order of the Eastern Stars, Newburgh Night Out, Ebenezer Baptist Church Sunday School program and the Head Start Advisory Committee. In addition to opening her home to others, she raised four daughters of her own, as well as the second generation of “daughters” of grandchildren. In this way, she emulated both her mother and grandmother, who were also community legends.
“Bobbie” and “Miss Grace” were pioneers in their work with the Orange County Health Department, each contributing to public health through their careers and community involvement. Their service highlighted the social determinants of health, particularly centered around poverty and education.
“Black History Month is an opportune time to recognize that, although health disparities exist in Orange County, we remain steadfast in our efforts to eliminate them,” added Dr. Gelman.
Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and maternal outcomes all affect Black Americans disproportionately in the United States. Preventing chronic disease and promoting healthy women, infants and children, particularly in the cities of Newburgh, Middletown and Port Jervis, are two of the priority areas the Orange County Health Department is focused on.
“It is imperative that we shine a light to the health disparities and biases that exist in our community, and that we continue to work together to support the efforts of those who are working hard to eradicate them,” said Inaudy Epsosito, Orange County’s Director of the Human Rights Commission.
Diseases of the Heart are the leading cause of death across Orange County, with a mortality rate of 202.3 per 100,000 for black residents vs. 182.9 per 100,000 for whites, as reported by the NYS Department of Health. According to the American Diabetes Association, blacks are more prone to developing serious complications of diabetes. In Orange County, the diabetes mortality rate per 100,000 for blacks is 28.8 and 16.4 for whites.
Promoting the health of women, infants and children continue to be a public health priority for the United States, New York and Orange County. Maternal and infant health data are widely used indicators of the overall health of a community. The NYS Department of Health reports significant outcome disparities among black women giving birth in Orange County, with black babies more likely to be born prematurely than white babies, at 13.8% vs 7.4%. It is important to note that prenatal care, gestational age and birth weight are strong indicators of both maternal and infant health.
The Orange County Department of Health will be co-sponsoring a screening of “Death by Delivery”, a film depicting black maternal health disparities in the United States, on February 3rd (snow date February 4th) at SUNY Orange Newburgh Campus from 5:30-8 p.m. OCDOH is co-sponsoring the event with MISN, Planned Parenthood Greater New York, the Black Maternal Health Disparities Taskforce, and Westchester Medical Center. For additional information, please call the OCDOH at 845-6680.