BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Obesity, heart disease and diabetes were just some of the issues nurses with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Black Nurse Association were tackling this weekend. They know their work is critical to helping a community disproportionately impacted by these diseases compared to other parts of the country.
"There's just an explosion and the explosion relates to cost," said Deborah Toney, the National Black Nurse Association President. "We know that's at the heart of it all, but the system is not set up to deal with issues related to chronic disease."
With the debate over healthcare reform at a feverish pitch, the president of the National Black Nurse Association believes now more than ever, nurses have to be informed and ready to handle the new challenges facing the healthcare industry.
"The infrastructure has to be in place and that infrastructure will entail nurses. There's more nurses than any other health care professionals. There's three million of us. It just makes sense that nurses are at the forefront," Toney said.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Black Nurse Association supports its national association's push to address the nursing shortage and get more funding for nurses in schools. During the convention, nurses learned more about the state of healthcare in Mississippi and issues affecting minorities, especially African-Americans. They also discussed the tools and resources needed to build a stronger, healthier community.
"We want to build partnerships. We want to build collaborations. We also want to start up coalitions that can help promote the awareness of what the disparities are," said Erica Mills, Vice-President of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Black Nurse Association.
Association President Deborah Toney said the fight to combat health disparities will become less of a struggle with more people on board working toward solutions.
"We're always looking for more nurses to help us join in the struggle of making sure everybody has an improved quality of health."