AHS Index

February 2023 | Black History Month

The AHS Index is a new way to look at data that illuminates a snapshot of our world today. It is intended to highlight health inequities and spark conversation, debate, and wonder.


Number of years James McCune Smith, the first Black American to hold a medical degree, was enslaved before being freed by the Emancipation Act of New York: 14

Estimated life expectancy of Black people in 1898, the year W.E.B. DuBois completed The Philadelphia Negro, which paved the way for study of how racism impacts health: 35.5

Estimated life expectancy of people who identified as white the same year: 46

Number of years Jessie Sleet Scales spent applying for nursing jobs, before she was finally hired to become America’s first Black public health nurse: 5

Number of patents awarded to Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, inventor of health and wellness products including the sanitation belt, who holds more patents than any other Black woman in history: 5

Year that Dr. Tolbert Small – who helped open the Black Panthers’ first free health clinic on Adeline Street in Berkeley – interned at Highland Hospital: 1968

Estimated number of U.S. children served each day by the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast Program at the height of the organization’s “survival programming”: 20,000

Age of Henrietta Lacks’ immortal cells, which have been used to study the human genome, to learn more about how viruses work, and played a crucial role in the development of the polio and COVID-19 vaccines: 72

Number of orbits around the earth that Dr. Mae Carol Jemison logged aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor when she became the first Black woman to travel into space: 127