Mathew Knowles: Health is number one. Without that, you actually become a liability to everyone. You can’t be the best family member, you can’t be the best friend, without having good health. I’m sitting here today speaking to you because I understood early diagnosis and early detection, and I was able to find my cancer early at stage 1A. Not everyone has that opportunity. This is about early detection, knowledge, and understanding of health. Believe in faith, but also believe in science. Put them together; not one by itself.
Allison Kugel: Aside from the Flex for Checks initiative, in what other ways is the National Minority Health Association reaching out to communities of color to help people look out for their own health?
Mathew Knowles: All of the things we are talking about today. They are less than a year old and they have just gotten their funding, which takes a while to get. They are now ready and geared towards early detection and health information, especially in the Black and brown communities. A lot of our challenges are just because we simply don’t know, and also the mental health that people don’t want to talk about, especially in the Black and brown community, and the effects of mental health, or the lack thereof, on our overall health.
Allison Kugel: Do you think cultural competency among healthcare providers is an important ingredient when it comes to healthcare, whether it is mental health, early detection screenings, or getting the COVID-19 vaccine?
Mathew Knowles: I think that falls into the entire gamut of society. If we were able to see more doctors and more nurses that look like us, if we were able to see more police that look like us in our communities; I think we can even take that to corporations. Yes, absolutely. This is my second year going to Harvard for the summers. I took this summer [course], Cultural Intelligence. We just don’t want to talk about the differences in our cultures. Black people are culturally different than white people. That is not saying one is right or one is wrong. That simply says that the way I might approach a problem could be different than the way you approach a problem, based on my culture and my background. I just think we need to understand cultural intelligence, understand how we are different, and accept that rather than thinking that everybody has to be the same. Well, no, we don’t have to be the same.
Allison Kugel: Let’s talk race versus socioeconomic status and healthcare. As a person moves up the economic ladder, do you think race is still a major factor in the healthcare someone receives?
Mathew Knowles: There is a bill that is about to come in the next six months in the House of Representatives from a California Congressman that is going to address just that, race in the medical system. Quantitative research with doctors and with hospitals makes it very clear that race does matter in terms of those going into emergency rooms, and who gets to get the diagnostics like the CT scans, the MRIs, and the extra care. Race does matter.
Allison Kugel: Even as you move up the economic ladder?
Mathew Knowles: I think it’s certainly reduced as you go up the economic ladder because what happens is, as you go up the economic ladder, normally, your new knowledge base also goes up. As your knowledge base goes up, you begin to understand that this doctor who I looked up to as God, instead it’s the knowledge that you are going to see a physician and as a patient, you have the right to say, “I want this procedure done,” or “I have the right to do that, because I’ve researched and I want you to perform that test or that procedure.” I think as you move up economically your knowledge progresses.
Listen to the full, extended interview with Mathew Knowles on the Allison Interviews Podcast at Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Follow Allison Kugel on Instagram @theallisonkugel and at allisoninterviews.com.