Research and Planning – California Black Women’s Health Project

As the primary cause of death in men and women in the United States, heart disease impacts women at a rate of 22.4% (CDC Women’s Health, 2015). It currently surpasses cancer, stroke, and diabetes. For African-American women, the mortality rate from heart disease is an overwhelming 23.6 percent, higher than women of other races. The most common type of heart disease is Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). CHD occurs when buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries leads to anginas (chest pain) as well as blood clots that result in heart attacks. Plaque found in the coronary arteries is “made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque can harden or rupture (break open)” (Heart Disease in Women, 2014). While there are genetic factors that determine a woman’s chance of developing heart disease, proper diet and exercise as well as regular medical checkups can reduce the risk.

The California Black Women’s Health Project’s (CBWHP) mission is centered on “advocating for policies and practices that promote and improve physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being” (Our Mission, 2015). As the number one killer of Black women, heart disease awareness and prevention is integral to the organization’s strategic communication plan. Currently, CBHWP includes cardiovascular disease as an essential topic listed under Goals, but does not provide adequate information about the disease. Due to the negative impact that heart disease has on California’s African-American women and consequently their families and communities, CBHWP’s communications strategy must concentrate on awareness and prevention. A quick look at the Black Women’s Health Imperative’s (BWHI) website, another organization that focuses on the health of African-American women, shows that they have made heart health a key issue. Even though BWHI works on a national level, CBHWP can adopt a similar format of placing heart disease in the foreground of its communications.

In order to properly serve California’s Black women, CBHWP needs to establish and nurture relationships with key stakeholders including local religious community leaders, California’s healthcare providers, and, most importantly, the women that the organization is serving. Pew Research Center’s 2009 study, A Religious Portrait of African-Americans, recognized “African-American women also stand out for their high level of religious commitment. More than eight-in-ten black women (84%) say religion is very important to them, and roughly six-in-ten (59%) say they attend religious services at least once a week”.  Relationships with local religious community leaders will provide CBHWP direct inlets to communicate with Black women and their families. These connections will enable the organization to deliver information about prevention and common symptoms of cardiovascular disease. Ethnic Health Assessment of African Americans in California, a report published in 2015 by Lonnie R. Snowden and Calvin Freeman, evaluated health care among California’s Black community. The paper found that “African Americans are more likely than Whites to lack health care coverage: 10% of African Americans lack heath coverage, compared to 8% of Whites. Additionally, 13% of African Americans do not have a place to go for routine care for health problems” (page 19). This discrepancy makes it critical to work with local healthcare providers to find and offer accessible medical treatments and regular checkups in the prevention of heart disease. This includes an annual women’s health and wellness event throughout California during which free or low-cost examines are made available. Finally, our most important stakeholders are California’s Black girls and women. CBHWP has established programs that emphasize both mental and reproductive health, but now is the time to work to create and implement a strategy aimed at awareness and prevention of heart disease.

Cities across California are dependent on the health and wellbeing of Black women; CBHWP’s duty is to ensure that they are informed and have the proper tools to live healthy lives and help their communities prosper. A well-developed communications strategy will serve as a foundation and guide as CBHWP seeks to raise awareness in the prevention and treatment of heart disease among California’s Black women. Whether the organization facilitates the discovery of the disease in its early stages or offers diet and exercise options that positively affect California’s Black community in the long-term, CBHWP has a responsibility to make sure that the number of Black women that die from heart disease drops from one-in-four to zero.

References

A Religious Portrait of African-Americans. (2009). Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/2009/01/30/a-religious-portrait-of-african-americans/

CDC Women’s Health. (2015). Center for Disease Control. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/women/lcod/2013/index.htm

Heart Disease in Women. (2014). National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Retrieved from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hdw

Our Mission. (2015). California Black Women’s Health Project. Retrieved from http://www.cabwhp.org/about_us/our_mission

Snowden, L. R. and Freeman, C. (2015). Ethnic Health Assessment of African Americans in California. Retrieved from http://www.cablackhealthnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/ethnic-health-report.pdf

 

This piece was created as part of the requirements for a writing assignment and not meant to be published nor to represent the organization(s) listed herein.