These pages focus on health disparities in the Pittsburgh region. They provide important health information, as well as information about research opportunities and community resources. All articles can also be accessed online at the New Pittsburgh Courier Web site. The monthly series is a partnership of the New Pittsburgh Courier, Community PARTners (a core service of the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute—CTSI), the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, and the UPMC Center for Inclusion.

This month the “Take Charge of Your Health” articles focus on a disease with which many African Americans are familiar. Last week, Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, chief of adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League, sat down to talk about sickle cell disease.

EM: Ms. Bush, it’s nice to see you again. I know you have a strong interest in the health of all of us living in the Pittsburgh region. This month’s topic is sickle cell disease (SCD). I know that the Urban League has been concerned about SCD for decades, having started what we now know as the Sickle Cell Society, a freestanding nonprofit organization in Pittsburgh.

EB: Yes, what a great overview. September is National Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month, so it’s fitting that we’re focusing on this disease that affects many people. I was surprised to see from Dr. Krishnamurti’s overview that one in 12 African Americans suffer from this painful genetic disease.

EM: Yes, SCD is an inherited disease. Because of research and medical advancements, we know a lot more about this disease. We also know more about how to treat it so that people living with the disease can have a better quality of life. In your opinion, what can people who suffer from SCD do to improve their health?

EB: If you have SCD, or know someone who does, know that there are many resources available in Pittsburgh. The Ryan Clark Cure League, as well as the Sickle Cell Society Inc., offer information, resources and support. As highlighted this month, a lot of sickle cell disease research is happening at the University of Pittsburgh. Children who are born with SCD can begin treatment immediately. The right treatment can help people who have this disease live longer. As always, regular visits with your primary care physician are important, as are following instructions for prescribed medications, eating healthfully and drinking plenty of water.

EM: Very true. Thank you, again, for your time, Ms. Bush. We look forward to next month when we discuss health literacy and the Affordable Care Act. For more information, please contact the Community PARTners Core at 412-624-8139.

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