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Health

Rep. Barbara Lee Calls Trump’s Obamacare Executive Order “Spiteful. Destructive. Cruel.”

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By Freddie Allen (Editor-In-Chief, NNPA Newswire)

President Donald Trump just delivered two more gut punches to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in an ongoing effort to knock out President Barack Obama’s legacy.

On the same day that Trump signed an executive order crafted to open up the health insurance marketplace to barely there plans that may leave people living with pre-existing conditions, like HIV and AIDS, with higher premiums or priced out completely, the White House also announced plans to discontinue the health insurance subsidies that made it easier for low-income people to access quality health care.

The ACA, also known as Obamacare, has significantly decreased the rate of uninsured nonelderly adults in Black communities. The law also requires health insurance companies to cover preventive services, like HIV screening; diversity and cultural competency training for health-care providers; the expansion of the health-care workforce; and an increase in funding for community health centers, an important safety net for low-income individuals and families, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now many health-care advocates fear that those gains will be lost as Trump continues to slash key provisions of the ACA.

The White House press secretary issued a statement that said there is no appropriation for cost-sharing-reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.

“The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system,” the statement reads. “Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people.”

The reaction was swift from health-care advocates, with some suggesting that Trump’s actions would effectively segregate Blacks and people living with HIV in high-risk insurance pools.

HIV/AIDS advocacy groups urged their constituents to write to their elected officials and contact the attorneys general in their states to demand legal action to protect the ACA.

In a statement about Trump’s refusal to fund the cost-sharing-reduction subsidies, Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, said that Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have proved that they will do everything in their power to take away health care from hardworking Americans.

“This is an unprecedented action: The president of the United States is purposefully hurting millions of the people he is supposed to serve by driving up their health-care costs,” Tanden said. “All to further his petty, political agenda and to undo Obamacare.”
Tanden added: “People will recognize that Trump—who has spent every last second of his presidency trying to tear down the ACA—is the one solely responsible for breaking health care in America, and congressional Republican leaders have stood by and watched him hurt Americans families while refusing to help them.”

Trump said that the executive order would “increase choice and increase access to lower-priced, high-quality health-care options” and would “cost the United States government virtually nothing.”

The order promises to expand access to association health plans; increase the availability of short-term, limited duration insurance plans; and also expand the availability and permitted use of health reimbursement accounts.

Association health plans allow small-business owners to pool their resources to buy health insurance plans; the plans may also be available to individual buyers. The association health plans offer greater flexibility to business owners, which in the past has led to “a race to the bottom, with some associations offering lower-cost plans that covered virtually nothing,” a former insurance regulator told Vox.

“Policy experts warn that together, these changes could represent a serious threat to Obamacare: Trump wants to open more loopholes for more people to buy insurance outside the health care law’s markets, which experts anticipate would destabilize the market for customers who are left behind with higher premiums and fewer insurers,” Vox reported.

That’s because industry watchers believe that younger, healthier consumers will flock to the cheaper plans that offer fewer benefits.

Topher Spiro, vice president for health policy and a senior fellow for economic policy at the Center for American Progress, says that Trump is trying to take us back to the bad old days before the Affordable Care Act, when coverage wasn’t there when you needed it, and people who were older or had pre-existing conditions faced sky-high costs.

“These changes would be devastating for small businesses, sending their premiums soaring and undermining the small-group insurance market,” Spiro says. “And while many consumers in the ACA marketplaces would be protected from the higher individual-market premiums resulting from this order, confusion will depress enrollment, some insurers may exit markets and middle-income Americans with pre-existing conditions would face premium spikes.”

Some lawmakers also expressed their contempt for the president’s latest executive order on social media.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) tweeted: “Spiteful. Destructive. Cruel. New low from President Trump – deliberately undermining health care for low-income families.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) echoed those sentiments, tweeting: “This is cruel and vindictive. This decision could cause premiums to skyrocket for millions of Americans.”

Even though Trump often criticized Obama’s use of the executive order, he’s on pace to nearly double the number of executive orders that the former president signed.

The executive order on health care is the 50th that Trump has signed as president.

On Oct. 13, Newsweek reported: “Obama had signed just 26 at this point of his presidency. He would eventually average 35 a year during his eight years in the White House—the fewest of any president for 120 years—en route to a total of 277. Trump is currently on pace to sign 275 executive orders. In one term.”

In a statement about Trump’s executive order on health care, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said that it was another example of Trump working relentlessly to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

“By weakening coverage requirements on some plans, called association health plans, this order will destabilize health-care markets and drive up insurance costs, particularly for older Americans and people with pre-existing conditions,” Booker said. “Before the consumer protection measures guaranteed by the ACA, association health plans ripped off consumers and left hundreds of thousands of Americans with unpaid medical bills.”

Booker continued: “If he’s really serious about ensuring great, affordable health care for all Americans, the president should work across party lines to improve the Affordable Care Act, not try to sabotage it.”

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Government

State Seeks to Boost Mental Health Counseling

OAKLAND POST — It’s 1 p.m. on a balmy Oak­land afternoon as residents of Great Expectations Residen­tial Care, a home for people with mental illness, gather in an activity room for a game of bingo. Lee Frierson, an unpaid vol­unteer, introduces himself as he and his team leader, Charlie Jones, unpack chips, soda, bat­teries and shampoo that they will hand out as prizes.

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Reach Out Program Manager Charlie Jones, right, and volunteer Lee Frierson, take a short break after leading a game of bingo with mental health patients at an Oakland, California, board-and-care home. (Photo by: Rob Waters)
By Rob Waters

It’s 1 p.m. on a balmy Oak­land afternoon as residents of Great Expectations Residen­tial Care, a home for people with mental illness, gather in an activity room for a game of bingo.

Lee Frierson, an unpaid vol­unteer, introduces himself as he and his team leader, Charlie Jones, unpack chips, soda, bat­teries and shampoo that they will hand out as prizes.

“I’m Lee with Reach Out,” Frierson says. “I’m a peer. I suffer from depression. It helps me to help you guys.”

“And I’m Charlie the angel,” Jones says. “We go to board-and-cares and psychiatric and wellness facilities to inspire hope and model recovery.”

A few rounds into the game, Frierson calls B-5, and a dark-haired man shouts, “Bingo!”

“Winner, winner, chicken dinner!” Frierson calls back, prompting chuckles.

What unfolds in this room is not exactly therapy, but it is something that mental health advocates and research suggest can be healing in its own right: people who have struggled with mental illness helping others who are experiencing similar struggles. Frierson and Jones are former mental health patients who now work with the Reach Out program, part of the nonprofit Alameda County Network of Mental Health Cli­ents, which provides what is called peer support.

The value of peer support is recognized by Medicaid, the health insurance program for people with low incomes, and it funds such services. That money is available for certified peer-support workers in states that have a formal certification process.

California does not, and that means it is “leaving money on the table,” said Keris Myrick, chief of peer services at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. South Da­kota is the only other state with no peer certification program.

But a bill pending in Sac­ramento, SB-10, would direct the State Department of Health Care Services to create a pro­cess for certifying peer sup­port workers and establish a set of core aptitudes and ethics guidelines for the job. The leg­islation passed the state Senate unanimously in May and will move to the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday.

More than 6,000 peer sup­port specialists already work in wellness programs, hospitals and clinics across California, according to SB-10’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose). They help mental health pa­tients navigate bureaucracies, find housing or locate services.

“They’re sharing their expe­riences: ‘Been there, done that, now I’m going to help another person,’” said Myrick, who has been diagnosed with schizoaf­fective disorder, was hospitalized several times and spent 10 years running a peer support program in Los Angeles.

Last year, the legislature unanimously passed a bill to certify peer support workers, but then-Gov. Jerry Brown ve­toed it, saying it was costly and unnecessary.

Legislative analysts esti­mate the state would spend hundreds of thousands of dol­lars to set up a certification pro­cess and millions more a year to implement it. Advocates say the new federal money would help offset those costs. And, they say, the legislation would cement the bona fides of peer mentoring as an occupation.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has not declared his position on the current bill, but he has said that addressing the state’s mental health crisis is a top priority for his administration. During his campaign for governor, he endorsed “expanded roles for nurse practitioners and peer providers.”

Dr. Thomas Insel, a former director of the National Insti­tute of Mental Health whom Newsom named in May as a key mental health adviser, told California Healthline he sup­ports the peer certification bill.

“For many people, hav­ing a connection to someone else who’s had this experi­ence proves vital,” Insel said. “There may be nothing more healing than giving people an opportunity to help others.”

Peer programs grew out of a movement in the 1970s op­posing coercive psychiatric treatment, led by people who’d been treated against their will and felt they would receive better care from those who personally identified with their experiences.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post
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HBCU

UnitedHealth Invests $8M to Educate, Train Minority Data Scientists

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University are among historically Black institutions poised to receive funding for analytics and data science training through an $8.25 million investment by UnitedHealth Group.

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Dave Wichmann, CEO, UnitedHealth Group (Courtesy of unitedhealthgroup.com)

Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University are among historically Black institutions poised to receive funding for analytics and data science training through an $8.25 million investment by UnitedHealth Group.

The five-year funding initiative will help Atlanta University Center Consortium Data Science Initiative improve education in health care analytics at historically black colleges and universities.

“Many universities have refocused existing programs or developed new efforts to respond to the need for this, yet these responses are still insufficient based on projected demand,” AUCC Executive Director Todd Greene said in a statement. “The UnitedHealth Group funding will help to establish the base for this broad initiative, including hiring an accomplished director.

“Through UnitedHealth Group internships, guest lectures, faculty development opportunities and other joint efforts, our students will greatly benefit from this partnership with the world’s largest managed health care company,” Greene said.

UnitedHealth, which notes that job openings for data experts in the U.S. will exceed more than 2.7 million by next year, also emphasized that the investment is aimed at continuing to develop a 21st-century health workforce that can develop “personalized, culturally competent care, particularly in underserved communities.”

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer.

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Economy

Racial disparities make it harder to ‘die well’

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN – RECORDER — African Americans experience an earlier onset and greater risk of what may be referred to as lifestyle-related diseases — cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. More than 40 percent of African Americans over the age of 20 are diagnosed with high blood pressure, compared to 32 percent of all Americans.

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Grave (Photo by: rawpixel.com | pexels.com)
By Jason Ashe and Danielle L. Beatty Moody

The world got an idea recently from 92-year-old Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, who popularized mindfulness and meditation in the U.S. The monk returned to his home in Vietnam to pass his remaining years. Many admired his desire to live his remaining time in peace and dignity.

Researchers from the University of California-San Diego recently did a literature search to understand what Americans might consider to be a “good death” or “successful dying.” As can be expected, their findings varied. People’s views were determined by their religious, social and cultural norms and influences.

The researchers urged healthcare providers, caregivers and the lay community to have open dialogues about preferences for the dying process.

As scholars who study social health and human services psychology, we found something missing in these conversations — how race impacts life span. It’s important to recognize that not everyone has an equal chance at “dying well.”

Black population and ill health

Take the disease burden of the African American population.

African Americans experience an earlier onset and greater risk of what may be referred to as lifestyle-related diseases — cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. More than 40 percent of African Americans over the age of 20 are diagnosed with high blood pressure, compared to 32 percent of all Americans.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the likelihood of experiencing a first stroke is nearly twice as high for African Americans compared with Whites. African Americans are more than two times more likely to experience a stroke before the age of 55. At age 45, the mortality rate from stroke is three times higher for Blacks compared to Whites.

This disease burden consequently leads to their higher mortality rates and overall shorter life expectancy for Blacks compared to Whites.

And while the life expectancy gap differs by only a few years, 75.3 for Blacks and 78.9 for Whites as of 2016, research suggests that African Americans suffer more sickness. This is due in part to the increased prevalence of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes in this population.

Genetics, biological factors and lifestyle behaviors, such as diet and smoking, help explain a portion of these differences. However, researchers are still learning how race-related social experiences and physical environments affect health, illness and mortality.

Access to health care

One factor is that African Americans have historically underutilized preventive medicine and healthcare services. They also delay seeking routine, necessary health care — or may not follow medical advice.

One study found that during an average month, 35 percent fewer Blacks visited a physician’s office, and 27 percent fewer visited an outpatient clinic compared with Whites. “The only time I go to the doctor is when something is really hurting. But otherwise, I don’t even know my doctor’s name,” said a young African American male during a research study in Chicago.

There are reasons for this mistrust. Researchers who study medical mistrust argue that high-profile cases of medical experiments are still playing a role in how African Americans view healthcare systems and providers.

In the past, physicians have intentionally done harm against people of color. A well-known case is the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis” in African American men, which lasted from 1932 to 1972.

In this clinical study, 399 African American men who had already contracted syphilis were told that they were receiving free health care from the government. In fact, doctors, knowing their critical condition, were awaiting their deaths to subsequently conduct autopsies and study the disease’s progression.

Even though penicillin had been proven to treat syphilis by 1947, these men were denied the treatment.

Why discrimination matters for health

Other studies suggest that regardless of their knowledge of past medical abuse, many African Americans have low levels of trust in medical establishments.

“Doctors, like all other people, are subject to prejudice and discrimination,” writes Damon Tweedy, author of Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine. “While bias can be a problem in any profession, in medicine, the stakes are much higher.”

Unfortunately, these fears are underscored by empirical evidence that African Americans are less likely to receive pain medication management, higher quality care, or survive surgical procedures.

In addition, a growing body of literature has established that experiences of discrimination are extremely harmful to physical and mental health, particularly among African Americans. This research adds to the body of evidence that experiences of discrimination harm people’s health and may contribute to the increased rates of premature decline and death among Blacks.

What does it take to SOTdie well?

As African American scholars, we argue the “art of dying well” may be a distant and romantic notion for the African American community. African Americans are also exposed to earlier and more frequent deaths of close loved ones, immediate family members and friends.

Their increased “vulnerability to untimely deaths,” writes Duke University scholar Karla Holloway, shows African Americans’ lack of access to equitable and fair paths in life.

Before defining “a good death,” American society must first begin to fundamentally address how to promote quality living and longevity across all racial groups.

Story republished with permission from The Conversation.

Jason Ashe is a doctoral student in human services psychology at the University of Maryland. Danielle L. Beatty Moody is an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at the University of Maryland.

This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

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Afro

Bill Introduced to Improve Maternal Healthcare

THE AFRO — Expectant mothers face challenges when seeking quality prenatal care in the District of Columbia.  Economic and transportation barriers contribute to the District’s infant mortality rate which is amongst the worst in the nation. In 2018 there were an average of 36.1 deaths for every 100,000 live births while nationally the rate is 20.7.

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D.C. City Council member Charles Allen wrote a bill in support of expanding maternal health care opportunities to expectant mothers. (Courtesy Photo)

By Mark F. Gray

Expectant mothers face challenges when seeking quality prenatal care in the District of Columbia.  Economic and transportation barriers contribute to the District’s infant mortality rate which is amongst the worst in the nation. In 2018 there were an average of 36.1 deaths for every 100,000 live births while nationally the rate is 20.7.

The D.C. City Council is pondering a bill that pushes for better maternal health care services that would be covered under all forms of insurance in an attempt to provide better prenatal care for expectant mothers in the District.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen introduced legislation that proposes expanding the list of medical care provisions for expectant mothers. The Maternal Health Care Improvement and Expansion Act of 2019 would also create a Center for Maternal Wellness and includes a travel stipend to aid in transportation so patients can reach their preferred health care provider consistently during pregnancy.

“We know women need more access to health care during and after a pregnancy,” Allen said in his statement. “We know community-centered health care can improve outcomes.”

However, Black mothers are facing more dangerous outcomes during their pregnancies.  Figures reported by Allen’s office state Black women are dying at a rate that is three to four times higher than White expectant mothers.  Low income mothers are struggling to gain consistent regular preventive, prenatal and postpartum care which is contributing to the D.C.’s high maternal mortality rate also.

“Last year, this Council created a Maternal Mortality Review Committee, but we don’t have to wait for results to make improvements,” said Allen.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Councilmember Vincent Gray, would require private insurers, Medicaid, and the D.C. Healthcare Alliance to add pre and post natal services to it’s benefits.  It would cover at least two postpartum health care visits and home visits for maternal care and fertility preservation services. Currently, Medicaid only includes one postpartum visit after six weeks and ends postpartum medical coverage at 60 days.

Allen’s proposal addresses the barriers facing patients who find it difficult when traveling to their health care provider by offering financial assistance for travel to and from prenatal and postpartum visits.  Transportation availability is seen as a vital cog in the hope of improving infant survival rates in D.C.

“We know for some women transportation is a barrier,” Allen stated. “That’s why this bill also includes a travel stipend to get to their preferred health care provider. If we can’t get people there, none of these other changes will make a difference.”

This bill would extend coverage to one full year for extremely low income residents who are living well below the federal poverty line.

The bill also calls for establishing a Center on Maternal Health and Wellness. Allen wants to build community among women who are pregnant and would consolidate a portion of services to be conveniently available in one location.  The Center would offer childcare onsite while making its services available through telehealth and online.

At the Center, a group of maternal care coordinators would advise pregnant mothers on how to navigate through the services available in the District during pregnancy and postpartum.  It will promote maternal support groups and provide health and nutrition counseling, and distribute prenatal vitamins. Group counseling services would also be available for individuals or family members who have been impacted by an infant’s or mother’s death. This is similar to the District’s comprehensive breastfeeding center. 

“We know a sense of community can help pregnant women and new mothers talk through challenges,” said Allen.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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Community

The future of health begins with you

MILWAUKEE TIMES WEEKLY — The All of Us Research Program is a large research program that may last for at least 10 years. It is collecting information for the largest ever data bank of information. The goal is to help researchers understand more about why people get sick or stay healthy. People who join will share with us information about their health, habits, and what it’s like where they live. By looking for patterns, researchers may learn more about what affects people’s health. We hope you will get involved.

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By The Milwaukee Times Weekly

The All of Us Research Program is a large research program that may last for at least 10 years. It is collecting information for the largest ever data bank of information. The goal is to help researchers understand more about why people get sick or stay healthy. People who join will share with us information about their health, habits, and what it’s like where they live. By looking for patterns, researchers may learn more about what affects people’s health. We hope you will get involved.

The All of Us Wisconsin consortium is asking you to get involved as the information you share will be contributing to research that may improve health for everyone and for generations to come. All of Us will ask you to share basic information like your name and where you live; questions about your health, family history, home, and work. If you have an electronic health record (EHR), All of Us may ask for access. You may also be asked to give samples, like blood or urine.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has created a national educational tour with a bus load of information. The All of Us Journey Bus will tour in Milwaukee. We invite families from across the Milwaukee community to visit the All of Us Journey Bus while it’s here in Milwaukee at one of the following locations:

Wednesday, August 7, 2019
94th Annual Session – Community Resource Fair General Baptist State Convention of Wisconsin Way of the Cross Missionary Baptist Church
1401 West Hadley (corner of Center Street and Teutonia Avenue)
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Thursday, August 8, 2019
United Community Center (UCC)
1028 South 9th Street
11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Friday, August 9, 2019
Milwaukee Health Services
2555 North Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
1 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Saturday, August 10, 2019
UMOS
2701 South Chase Avenue
9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Sunday, August 11, 2019
St. Ann’s Intergenerational Care- Bucyrus Campus
2450 West North Avenue
1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

If you are interested in learning more about the All of Us Research program, we invite you to a community lunch and learn on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. For details and reservations, please call (414) 264-6869 no later than Wednesday, July 31, 2019.

To learn more and to enroll:

Visit us at: JoinAllofUs.org
Email us at: allofus@mcw.edu
Call: 414-955-2689

This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Times Weekly
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Family

Why do fewer blacks survive childhood cancers?

MILWAUKEE TIMES WEEKLY — The relationship between race and the outcome for a number of cancers among whites, Hispanics and blacks in the United States have certainly started to become more evident and clearer. A new study finds, poverty is a major reason why black and Hispanic children with some types of cancer have lower survival rates than white patients.

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By The Milwaukee Times Weekly

The relationship between race and the outcome for a number of cancers among whites, Hispanics and blacks in the United States have certainly started to become more evident and clearer. A new study finds, poverty is a major reason why black and Hispanic children with some types of cancer have lower survival rates than white patients.

Researchers examined U.S. government data on nearly 32,000 black, Hispanic and white children who were diagnosed with cancer between 2000 and 2011. For several cancers, whites were much more likely to survive than blacks and Hispanics.

Rebecca Kehm and her University of Minnesota colleagues wondered whether those differences were due to socioeconomic status – that is, one’s position based on income, education and occupation.

Their conclusion: It had a significant effect on the link between race/ethnicity and survival for acute myeloid leukemia as well as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, neuroblastoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

For blacks compared to whites, socioeconomic status reduced the link between race/ethnicity and survival by 44 percent and 28 percent for the two leukemias; by 49 percent for neuroblastoma; and by 34 percent for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

For Hispanics compared to whites, the reductions were 31 percent and 73 percent for the two leukemias; 48 percent for neuroblastoma; and 28 percent for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Socioeconomic status was not a major factor in survival disparities for other types of childhood cancer, including central nervous system tumors, soft tissue sarcomas, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Wilms tumor and germ cell tumors, the researchers said.

“These findings provide insight for future intervention efforts aimed at closing the survival gap,” Kehm said in a journal news release.

“For cancers in which socioeconomic status is a key factor in explaining racial and ethnic survival disparities, behavioral and supportive interventions that address social and economic barriers to effective care are warranted,” she said.

“However, for cancers in which survival is less influenced by socioeconomic status, more research is needed on underlying differences in tumor biology and drug processing,” Kehm added.

For more information on acute myeloid leukemia, visit the Health Conditions page on BlackDoctor.org.

SOURCE: Cancer, news release, Aug. 20, 2018

This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Times Weekly
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