Key Topics on End-of-Life Care for African Americans

Key Topics on End-of-Life Care

An intellectual discourse derived from The Last Miles of the Way Home 2004 National Conference to Improve End-of-Life Care for African Americans

The Last Miles conference was the first of its kind, giving voice to issues in end-of-life decision-making and caregiving unique to African American patients, families and communities.

Key Topics on End-of-Life Care for African Americans represents the most important subject areas covered in the landmark national conference. The topics in this book range from the impact of health disparities on end of life decision-making to spiritual aspects of care at life’s end, to sociological and cultural perspectives on death and dying, and health policy considerations.

May 30, 2006

Dear Reader:

On behalf of the project team, authors and participants, I welcome you to read the manuscripts that we have published in this electronic book form, titled Key Topics on End-of-Life Care for African Americans . These manuscripts represent the most important subject areas covered in a landmark national conference called The Last Miles of the Way Home©, presented in Atlanta, Georgia in 2004. The Last Miles© conference was the first of its kind, giving voice to issues in end of life decision-making and caregiving unique to African American patients, families and communities. The topics covered in this book range from the impact of health disparities on end of life decision-making to spiritual aspects of care at life’s end, to sociological and cultural perspectives on death and dying and finally, even to health policy considerations.

The authors represented here are leading thinkers in this field. This series of papers will provide useful information for individuals and organizations interested in increasing their understanding of African American perspectives on end-of-life care that influence important questions such as access to hospice and palliative care, and the quality of care delivered in those settings. We hope that these papers will lead others to do further scholarly work and spur others to think about demonstration projects and other practical programs that provide beacons to shine light on best practices for delivering quality end-of-life care to African-American patients and families.

The Last Miles© conference and the published papers represented here are products of ideas conceived under the guidance of the late Dr. Marian Secundy of Howard University . We dedicate this project to her memory.

Richard Payne, M.D.
Esther Colliflower Director
Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life

May 30, 2006

Dear Readers,

“Education is the only solid bridge you can rely on to transport you over your troubled waters. So on that premise, I’ll say to you: Use that bridge to get on the other side where you can stand up and be counted, thereby leaving footsteps in the sand of time for others to follow.”

Strong and Beautiful Voices
Quotations from Africans throughout The Diaspora
Author, Christine B. Forte

My mentor and friend, the late Dr. Marian Gray Secundy, was a true visionary and as such, she led the charge to empower patients and their families to choose their individual paths for the final journey with respect, dignity and comfort. Moreover, Dr. Secundy firmly believed that in order to eradicate health care disparities and improve the overall quality of end-of-life care received by African Americans, education is indeed the solid bridge by which we can begin to close the gap. I feel honored and privileged to have worked under her tutelage.

The manuscripts, Key Topics on End-of-Life Care for African Americans, are the culmination of Dr. Secundy’s endeavors. The body of work presented here is from an esteemed group of leaders in their respective fields. The papers are intended to provide a platform for furthering the mission to provide culturally competent care to African Americans nearing the end of life. I would like to thank each of the authors and commentators, as well as the entire Last Miles project team, for their contributions and untiring efforts on this project. Without their dedication and commitment, the Last Miles conference and these commissioned papers would never have come to fruition.

As stated in Christine Forte’s quote above, it is clear that education can empower a people and their community. I encourage the reader to embrace this mindset as you explore the various topics covered here and challenge all of us to forge new paths toward delivering equitable, quality care to African Americans, each leaving our own set of footsteps to be followed by those behind us.

Sincerely,
Sharon R. Latson
Co-Principal Investigator