Black Women Taking Action to Improve Quality Healthcare and Health Justice

A person with the hand on the chin

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Portia White

Vice President of Policy and Legislative Affairs, NAACP

As Black women, we owe it to our foremothers who lived, fought and died long before us to make sure that our legacy lives on and is strong.  When we see films that depict our fight for freedom against slavery, and documentaries that signify our past, sharing facts about our survival, tolerance to continue life and sometimes the inability to do so, we can’t help but reflect on life, what it means, and how we must endeavor to continue.   We need fresh air, clean water, nutritious food, a willing spirit and a healthy body to be who we should be to continue our advocacy for democracy.  We must continue to expand our actions to improve our health and support efforts for justice and equality.

To continue and expand healthcare justice we must reflect on issues like maternal health, reproductive freedom, care giving, and educating our Black men on prostate cancer. We must center on the need to continue actions that will elevate quality healthcare in our Black community. We understand that but for the voices and stories of Black women taking action on these and other issues, policymakers would not be supportive in helping to suggest and pass policies that could indeed save lives. 

As a mother, who chose to have a child late in life and was given all the medical support available, I am wed to supporting mothers like my aunt who was not so blessed and died in childbirth leaving a family of 4 – my cousins ages 10, 6, 2 and 12 days old. I received quality health care including preventative care to avoid any undesired and devastating outcome so that I could carry my child to full term and not succumb to an outcome that would put my health in jeopardy or lead me down the road of leaving my child motherless and my husband alone. We know that Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy related complications that white women.  We must continue to fight to improve maternal health among racial and ethnic minority groups.    Preventative care is key so that Black women and their families have a greater chance for survival. Our foremothers fought for justice and our legacy depends on it.

Already we have witnessed over the last year, that our reproductive freedoms have been minimalized.  No longer is there a pathway for all to be protected.  Taking away the essential freedoms that we shared when Roe V. Wade was the ruling of the land has been met with the realization that we are at the beckon call of those who represent us as policy makers in our country, whether that be in state, local or federal government.  Now is the time that we must continue to fight to codify Roe v. Wade so that our sisters, aunts and daughters are provided the freedom of choice over their bodies and not be held to a philosophical argument beyond their desires. Securing a pathway for freedom is key so that Black women can be in control of their bodies!   Our foremothers fought for justice and our legacy depends on it.

For women, it is such a genuine reflection on who we are, and how we have been raised as we give back and support our families.  We are the caregivers.   When there are health issues, we sacrifice careers, money, vacations, time alone to dwell on ourselves to support, to give and take care of our ailing mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses and children.  But, we must ensure that family caregivers are properly supported by programs and policies such as Medicare, Hospital at Home, telehealth and other services. As we support these programs, we must endeavor to lean into health equity so that the investments are inclusive of our community. This includes community-based services to also ensure that nursing home residents receive safe, high-quality care and attention.   And we can’t forget and ignore the important issue of paid leave for family caregivers who sacrifice to support their families.  The RAISE Family Caregivers Law provides supportive measures that are being implemented.  We have to ensure proper implementation and justice.  Our foremothers fought for justice and our legacy depends on it.

Where would we as Black mothers be without the support of Black fathers?  We cannot ignore the plight of our Black men when it comes to the disease of prostate cancer.  Prostate cancer makes up about 37% of all cancers in Black men making it more common and deadlier for Black men, yet it has one of the highest survival rates of any cancer and is often curable if found at an early stage.   We must ensure that Black men do not delay screenings, treatment and are fully educated about treatment choices.  Risk factors include having a father, brother or son who has prostate cancer and at an age of 50+.  We must continue to educate and encourage our Black men on the disease and treatments. Our foremothers fought for justice and our legacy depends on it.

When our foremothers where brought to America as slaves, they were victims of enslavement, abuse, without reproductive freedoms, minus continual maternal care or the ability to care for their ailing families and give supportive measures to the men in their lives.  Today, we have to take actions inclusive of writing letters, joining marches and protests, speaking out in town halls, and elevating our voices to continue the fight for quality health care and health justice.  Our foremothers fought for justice and yes, our legacy depends on it!