Thad Bell (copy)

North Charleston physician Dr. Thad Bell has long been working to improve the health of the black community. A summit at this year's Lowcountry Jazz Festival is his most recent effort. File/Staff

As a primary care physician in North Charleston, Dr. Thaddeus Bell has had to dispel several health care myths throughout his career.

For instance, he said, his patients have swallowed vinegar and water and put moss in their shoes to fight high blood pressure. 

That's partly why Bell founded his nonprofit group, Closing the Gap in Health Care, more than 10 years ago. He wants to educate the black community about the benefits of preventive medicine. 

Now, a partnership with the national online publication Black Health Matters will help him reach even more patients. 

The two groups will hold a joint health summit during the Lowcountry Jazz Festival in September. The event will include a panel of national health care experts. 

Roslyn Daniels, president of Black Health Matters, said she and Bell hope to "build a culture of health" in the state.

"We don't want this to be a drive-by marketing event," Daniels said.

Among the diseases that disproportionately affect the black community: obesity, hypertension, sickle cell anemia, Alzheimer's disease and lupus.

These disparities exist, in part, because some black patients are reluctant to see a doctor, Daniels said. But she pointed out that people like to be treated by doctors who look like them. 

Part of the burden lies with white doctors, she said, because there are few black providers. A 2014 study from the Association of American Medical Colleges showed just 4 percent of physicians are African-American.

Another major obstacle is enrolling African-Americans in clinical trials, Daniels said. Bell pointed to a history of research trials that mistreated or even abused the trust of black participants.

"We're trying to make the white community aware that you have to establish trust," Bell said.

Tickets bought for the Lowcountry Jazz Festival will support Bell's health care nonprofit and will fund a scholarship that helps black students attend the Medical University of South Carolina.

Daniels said the organizers plan to host more summits in other areas of the state, though the details on additional events have not been finalized. 

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.