The shortest month of the year is dedicated to celebrating the history of an entire population, still, Black History Month is an opportunity to urge those who don't think about the issues that continue to oppress black communities to start thinking. So in honor of it being February, and in honor of March being Women's Month, it's time to focus on the disparities that plague black women and continue to go undiscussed in many health communities.
Black women continue to be affected by fatal diseases more than white women. They are 35 percent more likely to die from heart disease and are 30 percent more likely than white women to die from breast cancer once diagnosed. They are more affected by lung and colon cancers, and experience higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease, strokes and obesity.
Obstacles include access to medical resources: affordable and reliable healthcare, easy access to better diets, and accurate education and information.
Another part has to do with less research dedicated specifically to studying how certain types of diseases affect black women. For example, the debate about why black women are more likely to die from breast cancer has gone back and forth between them not getting tested enough, and the actual strain of cancer that affects them.
It's important that all women of color take care of themselves and their health. This means getting screened, scheduling mammograms and papsmears, and discussing family history and risk of certain diseases.
Getting tested for STIs is also important, including HIV - knowing about your body is the best way to take care of it. If you're sexually active, getting tested ensures you are maintaining your sexual health.
Taking preventative measures against contracting STIs is another step in having the best health. Use contraceptives, educate the women around you about safe sex, and encourage your community to provide accurate and safe sexual health education resources to young people.
Low-income communities and communities of color are especially susceptible to misinformation and it's important that everyone has equal access to healthcare AND health education!
Be good to your heart emotionally and physically. Exercise, maintain a well-balanced diet, and find a support system that nourishes your soul - they may be family, friends, or partners, but make sure you feel loved and supported. Emotional toxins are sometimes as bad as physical ones.
In honor of all black women - mothers, daughters, friends, leaders, partners - let's commit to making all women of color in our lives feel safer and healthier in the future!!