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Closing the Health Disparity Gap for Black Women



  • African American women are three times more likely to die from complications due to pregnancy.
  • Black women are disproportionately burdened by chronic conditions, such as anemia, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and obesity.
  • Evidence exists that racial differences in socioeconomic (education and employment) and housing outcomes results in systematic unequal treatment of Black women.

These are just a few of the reasons Houston’s Leading Black Information Source is hosting the 2nd State of Black Women Health Forum at HISD’s Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy, 1906 Cleburne St., in Houston. The event scheduled on Wednesday, May 18 is two-fold with student assemblies in the morning and an adult program beginning with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and a program at 6:30 p.m.

While the student portion of the event will focus on physical and mental health, the adult session will add a discussion on sexual health as a component. Health questions from the audience will be answered by black medical professionals who commonly address the health care needs unique to Black women. Admission is free with registration.

“This forum brings Black girls and Black women together with women medical professionals to help provide a roadmap for their lifelong health journey,” said Sonny Messiah-Jiles, CEO of the Defender Network. “We are grateful for our sponsors who recognize the importance of empowering Black women with health information to improve the quality of their lives.”

Sponsors for the 2nd State of Black Women Health Forum are H-E-B., Texas Children’s Hospital, J.P. Morgan Chase, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the City of Houston, HillDay Public Relations and The Steve Fund, an organization dedicated to the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color.

“At H-E-B, our mission is to do our part to take care of Texans, and we’re proud to support wellness initiatives that work to educate and improve the health of women and communities of color,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice President of Public Affairs, Diversity and Environmental Affairs. “H-E-B believes food plays an important role in a person’s wellbeing, and we’re committed to providing families throughout Texas quality, nutritional food to help them live happier and healthier lives.

 “Black women, especially younger women, are more likely to have more aggressive breast cancers at an earlier age and die more often from the disease, making breast cancer screening, early detection and clinical trial enrollment especially important for our community,” said Lorna McNeill, Ph.D., chair of Health Disparities Research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. McNeill will speak on clinical trials and health disparities at the event.

“Texas Children’s Hospital is incredibly proud to be a sponsor of this year’s State of Black Women Health Forum,” said Michelle Riley Brown, Executive Vice President of Texas Children’s Hospital. “All Black women and girls should have access not only to quality medical care that specifically addresses their needs, but also to vital information essential for their long-term physical and emotional health. Thank you so much to all the participating speakers and panelists and to Sonny Messiah-Jiles for spearheading this critical conversation.”

Black women organizations from across the city will encourage members to participate in the forum with the goal of winning the special attendance prizes: First prize $1,000, Second prize $500 or Third prize $250. The event includes swag bags for the first one hundred attendees, door prizes and lots of fun and information.

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Black Life Texas

Increase Your Health Literacy IQ at Free Health Fair




It is estimated that only 14 percent of the U.S. population has proficient health literacy, and the Black and Latino populations typically score lower in health literacy compared to other races. 

To improve health outcomes, The Department of Health and Human Services hopes that observing National Minority Health Month in April will highlight the importance of improving health and reducing health disparities among people of color. Health disparities are the imbalance in the quality of health and health care experienced by groups based on their environmental condition and social, racial, ethnic, and economic status. 

One way to improve your health literacy is to attend a health fair honoring National Minority Health Month, sponsored by the San Antonio Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, on Saturday, April 8, from 9 am to noon at Second Baptist Church at 3310 E. Commerce Street. 

The fair includes panel discussions on mental health, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, prostate cancer, and more. Bring the family to enjoy door prizes, an easter egg hunt, easter baskets, and other free giveaways. 

The origin of National Minority Health Month was the 1915 establishment of National Negro Health Week by Booker T. Washington. In 2002, National Minority Health Month received support from the U.S. Congress with a concurrent resolution that “a National Minority Health and Health Disparities Month should be established to promote educational efforts on the health problems currently facing minorities and other health disparity populations.” 

The resolution encouraged “all health organizations and Americans to conduct appropriate programs and activities to promote healthfulness in minority and other health disparity communities.”

To register for the free health fair, visit this link.

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Black Life Texas

Our Quest for Health Equity Lecture by Dr. Wayne Riley




Medical educator and national leader in academic medicine Dr. Wayne Riley will be the keynote speaker for the 20th Anniversary Frank Bryant Jr. MD, Memorial Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, April 6, from 12 pm to 1 pm at Holly Auditorium. 

In June of 2021 – alongside Drs. Anthony Fauci and Eric Topol – Dr. Riley was awarded the National Medical Humanism Medal by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for his impactful leadership during the pandemic and passionate advocacy towards addressing health disparities and anti-racism in medicine and healthcare.

A champion for healthcare equity, Dr. Riley will share his personal and professional experiences in his discussion “Our Quest for Health Equity” by focusing on prejudice in the medical field. This free, in-person event will occur at the Holly Auditorium at 7703 Floyd Curl Drive (UT Medical Center).

“Dr. Riley is truly a distinguished medical educator, a respected national leader in academic medicine, and a champion for health care equity,” said Dr. Ruth Berggren, head of the Center for Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

In 2002, the Texas Medical Foundation funded a lecture series to honor Dr. Frank Bryant Jr. He is remembered as a man who overcame adversity yet would never accuse anyone else of being unfair. Dr. Bryant graduated from UTMB in one of the first classes to admit Black students; he became a respected physician, a loving family man, and an advocate for the medically underserved in East San Antonio. Dr. Bryant was the co-founder, first medical director of the Ella Austin Health Clinic, and co-developer of the East San Antonio Medical Center. He served as the first African American President of the Bexar County Medical Society and the first President of the C.A. Whittier Medical Society.

Dr. Riley was appointed by the Board of Trustees of The State University of New York (SUNY) as the 17th President of SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in 2017. Dr. Riley is an academic primary care general internist with over 25 years of progressively senior executive-level management, policy, and leadership experience. 

Before Dr. Riley’s appointment at Downstate, he served as a clinical professor of Medicine and adjunct professor of Health Policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and as an adjunct professor of Management at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management. Before his role at Vanderbilt, from 2007-2013, Dr. Riley served with distinction as the 10th president, chief executive officer, and professor of Medicine at Meharry Medical College.

Dr. Riley earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Morehouse School of Medicine, a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology with a concentration in medical anthropology from Yale University, and a Master of Public Health degree in health systems management from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. He also earned a Master of Business Administration from Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business. 

“I look forward to welcoming all of you to our campus to hear Dr. Riley’s address!” said  Dr. Ruth Berggren. “I hope that each of you will consider inviting members of the community, including youth, students, community leaders, and health professionals, to learn from his experiences and  to be inspired.”

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Black Life Texas

Go Red in February




#HeartMonth is just getting started! The American Heart Association is asking people to “Go Red for Women” to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease and help save lives. Why? Because losing even one woman to cardiovascular disease is too many. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, killing one woman about every 80 seconds. Women who suffer from cardiac arrest outside of a hospital are less likely to receive CPR from bystanders.

National Wear Red Day was officially on Feb. 3, but the American Heart Association is hoping people wear red all month and learn the importance of CPR. The Association recently partnered with Damar Hamlin of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills for the #3forHeart CPR Challenge to encourage people to learn this life-saving practice. 

Heart disease and stroke disproportionately impact Black women. Importantly, Black women are less likely than white women to be aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death. Diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity, and a family history of heart disease are all greatly prevalent among Black women and are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. What’s more, Black women have almost two times the risk of stroke than white women and are more likely to die at an earlier age when compared to women of other ethnicities.

Here are a few unsettling stats:

  • Cardiovascular diseases kill more than 50,000 Black women annually. Stroke is a leading cause of death among Black women.
  • Among Black women ages 20 and older, nearly 59% have cardiovascular disease.
  • Only 39% of Black women are aware that chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack; only 33% recognize that pain spreading to the shoulder, neck, or arms is another potential heart attack sign.
  • Among Black women ages 20 years and older, nearly 58% have high blood pressure, and only around 20% of those women have their blood pressure under control.

Risk Factors That Can Be Managed:

You can control or treat these risk factors with lifestyle changes and your healthcare provider’s help:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Lack of regular activity
  • Obesity or overweight
  • Diabetes

Risk Factors You Can’t Control:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Heredity (family health history)
  • Race
  • Previous stroke or heart attack

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Attack:

If you have any of these signs, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital immediately.

  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  4. Other signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  5. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort.

What are the stroke warning signs?

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance o
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