AARP invites you to see this powerful one-hour documentary, meet the author and producer, and learn how important lessons from the past are relevant today.
POWER TO HEAL is an hour-long public television documentary that tells a poignant chapter in the historic struggle to secure equal and adequate access to healthcare for all Americans. Central to the story is the tale of how a new national program, Medicare, was used to mount a dramatic, coordinated effort that desegregated thousands of hospitals across the country in a matter of months.
Before Medicare, disparities in access to hospital care were dramatic. Less than half the nation’s hospitals served black and white patients equally, and in the South, 1/3 of hospitals would not admit African-Americans even for emergencies.
Using the carrot of Medicare dollars, the federal government virtually ended the practice of racially segregating patients, doctors, medical staffs, blood supplies and linens. POWER TO HEAL illustrates how Movement leaders and grass-roots volunteers pressed and worked with the federal government to achieve justice and fairness for African–Americans.
Through the voices of the men and women who experienced disparities and fought against them, POWER TO HEAL will introduce a broad, prime-time national audience on PBS to a missing link in the Civil Rights Movement — a struggle over healthcare from a half-century ago, that raises questions that resonate today: is healthcare a human right? Must the federal government intervene to ensure equality?
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Author: David Barton Smith
In less than four months, beginning with a staff of five, an obscure office buried deep within the federal bureaucracy transformed the nation’s hospitals from our most racially and economically segregated institutions into our most integrated. These powerful private institutions, which had for a half century selectively served people on the basis of race and wealth, began equally caring for all on the basis of need.
Producer & Project Creator
Dr. Barbara Berney is a distinguished scholar in public health, environmental justice, and the U.S. health care system, Dr. Berney is Associate Professor at Hunter College and a tenured faculty member directing the program in health policy and management. She was inspired to produce the film by hearing eyewitness accounts from physicians, nurses and government staffers involved in the integration effort and those who struggled to provide health services in rural areas lacking the most basic medical care.