Dr. Adewale Troutman said he believes strongly in the power of one.
Troutman has spent the last thirty years of his academic and professional career dedicated to examining differences in health status and outcomes, including differences in race and socioeconomic status.
His passion for health equity and applying a social determinants lens to health care was recently honored by 100 Black Men of America, Inc. at their 30th Annual Conference in Atlanta, June 15-19.
“The structures associated with health inequities are unnatural, unfair and unjust,” he said. “They can be corrected and new systems put in place that guarantee the notion that health is a basic human right.”
He was one of four recipients to receive the Champion of the Year in Health & Wellness Award.
The organization aims to improve the quality of life within African-American communities through mentoring, education, health and wellness and economic empowerment.
“Since I’ve come into the organization, I’ve seen a shift that makes me feel that you can make a difference,” Troutman said.
Troutman, currently serving as a national health and wellness committee leader for the organization, said the organization has been working with local health departments to focus health discussions on social determinants and how to examine health issues at the next level.
“We’re mentoring a child; that child has a family and there are things we should be helping to introduce to that family that is based on the social determinants, education, as well as individual and personal health,” he said. “That child who we are mentoring can be an orifice to the family which may have issues itself, such as hypertension, diabetes and so on.”
He said this award is an affirmation of what he believes in and the result of working among what he described “magnificent people.”
He recalls one of his favorite allegories in which two men are fishing alongside a river. They see one baby float by and then another, so the first fisherman jumps in to save the babies. The other runs upstream. The fisherman in the water asks the second fisherman for help, but the second fisherman tells him he’s running up stream to stop whoever is throwing the babies in the river to stop.
Troutman said that preventative programs are helpful, however, we must go upstream to the underlying issues causing health problems in disproportionate levels among African-Americans, including school system failure and inequities in crime and punishment.
“If you stay downstream, you’ll do some good, but you’ll never stop the flow of babies down the river, so that task is to go upstream and attack them up there, while at the same time taking care of the people already downstream in the river,” he said. “It’s conceivable that one person could turn the whole system of health and health care around with its foundation being in health equity, social justice and the right to health and give us what’s deserved; that’s something that’s a basic human right.”
Troutman has served as president of the American Public Health Association, a member on the Department of Health and Human Services’s Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives for 2020 committee and also directed the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.
He earned his medical degree from the New Jersey Medical School, as well as a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University and a master’s degree in Black Studies from the State University of New York-Albany.
100 Black Men of America, Inc. currently has 110 chapters across the U.S. with more than 10,000 members.
Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health