‘Men’s Health Summit’ emphasizes importance of community health centers


Even as the pandemic winds down, community health centers remain on the front lines of health care, providing much-needed services to low-income residents. And for Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury, that means a special focus on men’s health.

In addition to providing its regular services and programs, the clinic opened up its parking lot Saturday for the center’s annual “Men’s Health Summit,” to raise awareness about the disproportionate participation of men in the health care system.

“We need to reduce the mortality rate in our men,” said Frederica Williams, president of Whittier Street Health Center. “We need our men to be there as leaders for their families and their children, so that we can end the high mortality and morbidity rates that impact our brown and Black community.”

And men, said Williams, have been less likely to get tested for or vaccinated against COVID-19.

People from marginalized populations often turn to community centers for help with health issues. The nonprofit organizations can meet the needs of patients who otherwise face obstacles in getting treatment, such as language barriers. As a result, community health centers play a major role in closing racial health disparities and repairing the sometimes shaky relationship between people of color and medical institutions.

Past policies that discriminated against racial minorities have “led to mistrust when it comes to getting medical treatment. It is the community health centers that are doing the work to build that trust,” said Acting Mayor Kim Janey,who participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center’s new mobile health unit.

The unit is a large van equipped with two examination rooms and a lab that will enable Whittier Street staff to do more medical outreach in the community.

“We wanted to have a safe place to be able to provide confidential, high-quality, culturally sensitive care,” Williams said.

But there is more to be done, Williams said.

“We’re not resting on our laurels,” she said. “We’re just getting started.”

Jack Lyons can be reached at jack.lyons@globe.com.

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