- 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.
In Search of a Black Doctor
We Have To Help Our Obese Children
Children and young adults lead busy lifestyles. They are often in activities outside of school, so working parents often have little time for sit-down yet healthy meals. It can be easier to swing by McDonald’s or pick up a greasy pizza.
Three to four days of this routine can wreak havoc on a child’s nutrition and set them up for obesity, especially if they are not involved in athletics or active programs. The prevalence of children of color being obese is so high that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced that teens over age 13 should be evaluated for metabolic and bariatric surgery if they have severe obesity.
These new recommendations should sound alarm bells in Black and Brown communities. It’s no secret that San Antonio is a hot spot for diabetes. While the city’s demographics mean more of the Hispanic community struggles with this disease, the Black community, as a whole, has a disproportionate amount of children and young adults suffering from obesity, also known as a chronic disease.
More than 14.4 million U.S. children and teens are considered obese, according to the National Library of Medicine. The risk factors associated with obesity include hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic liver disease. Because a child or adolescent with obesity is 70% more likely to struggle with their weight as an adult, it is imperative to work on reducing weight as a child.
The most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination from 2015-2016 demonstrated that class I obesity was highest among Black females at 25.1% and Hispanic males at 20% compared to 13.6% and 14.7% in white females and males.
What are the solutions to decreasing obesity rates in children? First, it will have to start with parents, teachers, or adults overseeing kids.
Smarter Choices – It may not be realistic to cook home meals daily or afford the healthiest options. However, relaying to kids to make smarter choices can introduce small changes. Instead of french fries, choose baked chips or fruit. Also, encouraging smaller portions can reduce calories since most fast food and sit-down restaurants serve enough for two people. Learn to read nutrition labels so kids and adults understand what’s going into their bodies.
Girls on the Run/School Sports – Many schools offer active programs for kids, such as the low-cost option of Girls on the Run, which encourages girls to run. While some kids may not like playing sports or running, other after-school options include dance, volleyball, and even golf – even these activities include some form of exercise conditioning.
Netflix’s 2017 documentary “Sisters on Track” followed the Sheppard sisters and their mother, who went from homelessness to all three sisters pursuing their Jr. Olympic dreams. Their mother, Tonia Handy, signed her daughters up for Jeuness Track Club for girls in Brooklyn to give them something to do and stay out of trouble. The club’s coach, Jean Bell, can be seen in the documentary not only coaching the girls but also helping with life challenges and expenses. After the documentary aired, Tyler Perry paid for rent to help the family move out of a homeless shelter. Brooks Running set up a $25,000 educational fund for each sister, totaling $75,000. Brooks also donated $5,000 to Jeuness Track Club to help cover expenses for families who can’t afford it.
Gaming – The world of gaming is keeping our kids more sedentary than ever. Encourage reduced times or no gaming during the school week. Try to incorporate active video games that often have the user learning dance steps and kickboxing – sometimes with a VR or virtual headset. If your child goes to a recreational center after school, encourage them to invest in active gaming equipment.
Overall, it’s up to parents and adults to break that cycle of obesity. This includes making healthier choices, incorporating activity, and eating high-calorie food in moderation.
And while there is much debate about food deserts in low-income communities, we have to do something despite that. Food deserts are defined as low-income communities where the nearest supermarket is more than several miles away and access to affordable and quality foods is limited.
Brookings recently reported that after analyzing the distribution of grocery stores in several large U.S. cities, they found that premium grocery stores are less likely to be located in Black-majority neighborhoods, regardless of the average household income of those neighborhoods, and are substantially more likely to be in areas where the Black population share is less than 10%.
In other words, businesses and the broader real estate and financing sectors aren’t investing even in prospering Black-majority neighborhoods, which devalues these communities and hinders growth opportunities. This is true in San Antonio. Even those grocery stores considered organic or upscale are in select parts of the city where income levels are high. While some supermarkets have returned to the city after leaving due to competition, they are now offering costly delivery services – not realistic for families on a tight food budget. And while the nearest Walgreens, CVS, or gas station store may not have fruit, salad, or healthier choices, they do have crackers, baked chips, and protein bars – which are better options than candy. And instead of buying high-calorie sodas, many drinks now have low-sugar and no-sugar options. And there’s even water sold with a hint of fruit. How clever is that – water and good old lemon!
The Mothers of Gynecology
By Melissa Monroe
I bet you have never heard of the names Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey in the history books. But I’m damn sure the name Dr. J. Marion Sims has been put on a pedestal, especially in medical journals.
Black women, in particular, should get free gynecological healthcare because these three Black Queens, let me say their names again – Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey – unwillingly were tortured by Dr. Sims in the name of medicine. In the 1840s, he took Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey from their slave plantations to experiment with them WITHOUT anesthesia. They all suffered from a condition called fistula, which were unhealed tears in their vagina and rectum/anal area, often from childbirth. Anarcha first came to the doctor because she couldn’t deliver her baby after three days of labor. After her baby was stillborn, she developed fistulas, and he claimed he could “heal” her. In three and half years, he performed 30 procedures on her.
Lucy and Betsey were also his “patients,” and several other women. He said he was able to cure the women of their injuries by using silver thread and a “clamp suture” mechanism that would soon be abandoned. The doctor eventually relocated to New York City to capitalize on his methods and tools (he developed the precursor to the speculum in his experiments). And a decade later, he’s coined the “Father of Gynecology.”
The forgotten stories of these women are thankfully being told by another Black Queen – Michelle Browder – who’s making sure the Mothers of Gynecology and some of our Civil Rights leaders are memorialized in Montgomery, Alabama. Browder started More Up Tours, a family business, to educate tourists about these little-known stories. I had the honor to take one of her tours thanks to Northwest Vista College – a part of the Alamo Colleges – which sponsored a history trip for faculty and staff.
Browder said it shouldn’t have to take the death of George Floyd and the buzzword of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) for people to practice basic humanitarian principles such as being kind and having respect for one another.
The More Up campus is right across the street from the Peace and Justice Memorial, which in itself, is a stark reminder of the brutality African Americans endured. At the memorial, one of many signs depicted why some Black people were lynched. One read: “Warren Powell, 14, was lynched in East Point, Georgia, in 1889 for ‘frightening’ a white girl.” And just think 123 years later, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed because he too “frightened” a neighborhood watchman.
Back to the Montgomery doctor (who shall not have his name mentioned again in this article), was experimenting on slaves in a hospital in Montgomery that eventually increased from four to 12 beds. Alabama proudly has a historical marker outside his hospital telling the story of his “successful” procedures. In a turn of fate and hundreds of years later, Browder was aided by allies in Montgomery and purchased the torture hospital at a deep discount. The person who owned the building said it was “haunted.” Hmm..I wonder why? Now she plans to renovate it to use it to help improve medical care for women.
In honor of Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey (let’s say their names one more time), Browder, who is also an artist, created three, 15-foot monuments to honor them and shine a light on the ongoing racial disparities in the healthcare industry. The sculptures depict Strength, Beauty and Femininity.
Her website (AnarchaLucyBetsey.org) says, “The monument stands as a symbol of all of the enslaved women who were experimented upon in the quixotic pursuit of a modern “science” of gynecology.”
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