by Chelsey Sellars | The Center For Black Health & Equity Communications Specialist
It was a packed virtual room Thursday as many tobacco control advocates gathered to gain insight on the “Health Justice in Tobacco Control” Guide. This resource was created by Sterling Fulton, Evaluation Director for The Center for Black Health & Equity and Dr. Robert Robertson, one of the founders of The Center, formally the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network (NAATPN) in 2000.
We have been eager to share this resource for quite some time — there aren’t many others like it on the market.
Dr. Robertson and Delmonte Jefferson, our executive director who stepped in for Fulton, started the conversation by offering background on the need for tobacco prevention programs to prioritize African American populations.
The tobacco industry has been exploiting African Americans for centuries, starting with enslaved people working in tobacco fields to later becoming the industry’s most essential tobacco users. As cancer research and tobacco prevention programs started to develop, Dr. Robertson noticed the lack of diversity in the data and program coordinating staff. The lack of representation created gaps in the research which now, more than 20 years later, the “Health Justice in Tobacco Control” guide will help to fill.
“There’s this love-hate [relationship] with the tobacco industry,” said Dr. Robertson. “When tobacco control became a public health phenomena, and you had people advocating against the tobacco industry, African Americans were one of the last groups to become advocates in this battle. One of the reasons for that is the history we’ve had with them. A very strange history that enslaved us, killed us, but at the same time [invested in the growth of our community].”
It took a few years and thousands of pages worth of research to thoughtfully compose this needed document.
And while the guide does provide a lot of historical information, “Health Justice in Tobacco Control” also presents solutions to help readers engage with their own communities in order to defeat Big Tobacco.
Most cessation and tobacco control programs will focus on treating people who smoke, but that does not address the bigger, systemic issue. “What’s missing is the importance of community,” said Dr. Robertson. The Community Model requires us to understand a community’s history, culture, context and geography in order to make equitable policies and quality resources. “We’re talking about making a community stronger,” said Dr.Robertson, “so that a community has the basis on which to engage in struggles effectively.”
The nearly 200 attendees represented organizations from all over the country, excited and inquiring more about how they can use it in their day-to-day work.
Click here to download the guide and start reading today! Reach out to Sterling Fulton at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about future trainings and workshops associated with the guide.