Providing an efficient health care service is a fundamental aspect of any developed country. But in 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau found that 16.3 percent of the American population is lacking in health insurance, up by more than 3 percent from 2000.
The data is even worse for African-Americans, one in five of whom cannot afford health insurance.
This is what motivates Shenekia Loud.
In 2009, Loud founded the Kenkou Healthcare Agency, using the Japanese word kenkou, which means well-being. Today, Kenkou starts working with people before they even receive a diagnosis by interviewing prospective patients, guiding them to the doctors who will understand them best and providing additional care once they have found a health care provider.
Still a young professional, Loud now heads one of the leading health care agencies in New York. She admits that it wasn’t easy for her. “In general, the health care industry is a male-dominated field, so it was hard to impose myself as a Black woman entrepreneur,” she said.
Loud says her goal is to make health care services affordable for people and, above all, to change the relationships between patients and medical administrators, creating a real bond between them.
Her journey started a few years ago, when her 2-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, the most serious form of the disease. She remembered how hard it was for her to figure out how to care for her son.
“I was a young mother who wanted to do anything to keep her son alive but did not have any support or directions from the health insurance I was paying for,” said Loud. “When you learn that you have to deal with such a serious disease, it changes the course of your life and you need all types of support to face and accept it. I did not have this support from my health insurance.”
Feeling lost, not knowing which doctors to call or how to behave and heal a diabetic child, Loud struck out on her own.
“I did it all by myself found as much information as I could concerning diabetes, watched videotapes to know more about insulin treatments,” she said.
Loud was a clinical student at the time and admits that even though the situation was difficult for her, it would have been worse for someone who was completely unfamiliar with the medical system.
With courage, after years of struggle, Loud succeeded in finding solutions to stabilize her son’s health. Today, she says, she doesn’t want anyone to experience what she went through over the years.
“I wanted to create a health care agency that makes the bond between patients, doctors and health insurance. When you suffer from a serious disease, you need a medical group that is really close to you. That’s why the Kenkou Group exists,” Loud said. “There is nothing we can’t do to help people face their disease.”
Loud also pointed out that African-Americans are usually the ones to show more reluctance in trusting health care agencies and having health insurance, even though they are the most in need. “They always think, ‘I can’t afford this,’” she said.
After opening their first office in downtown Manhattan, the Kenkou Group moved to Harlem to get closer to the population most in need of health care services. Because the Kenkou Group does not want money to be a barrier to health, it helps patients find health insurance that will match their budget and that will be the most efficient in helping treat their specific disease.
“This is where we are the most needed, and we wanted to show that we can bring a successful businesses uptown,”
The Kenkou Group now helps more than 4,000 patients in New York. Loud has the ambition to triple this number and open another agency in Atlanta, where she says there is also a large concentration of African-Americans in need.
Loud encourages young women who want to follow her steps to do it “with passion and love for what they want to change.”