Black Women's Health and Happiness

Insights into physical, mental, and spiritual health for women of color.

It's Time to Change the History of Black Americans' Health

It's your life; live it. It's your health; know it.

As the nation commemorates the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. it also recalls the brutality Blacks suffered and the causes for which Dr. King was slain. But while America still has some challenges, it still remains the greatest country in the world; and as it pertains to Blacks, in many ways we can say "the times they are a changin’." In many ways, they’ve already changed.

Foremost in this regard is the fact that, on Jan. 21, 2013, millions celebrate America as President Barack Obama is sworn in for the second time as president of the United States of America.

President Obama’s wife, Michelle Obama, occupies the White House, not as a maid servant, but as America’s First Lady; and while impressions about her fashion choices vary (but, c'mon...her outfits were exquisite on Inauguration Day. Beautiful!), for sure she is well-liked and gets high marks for her work with military families and her fight against childhood obesity.

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Another advancement is in the media where there are more frequent romantic pairings of Black women and White men. This is evident in such shows as Scandal with Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn (ABC-TV); and Meagan Good and Tate Donovan in Deception (NBC-TV), for example. This is a good thing because for far too long we’ve seen the opposite pairing (of Black men with White women) to the total exclusion of Black women in positive, romantic roles. Plus, these shows feature Black women as the lead role in a primetime drama series and that hasn’t been the case in decades.

We also see more Black male and female movie and TV directors and producers such as Shondra Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, The Practice and Scandal); Devon Franklin (The Pursuit of Happyness and others), and Debra Martin Chase (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants; The Princess Diaries, and Sparkle, to name a few).

But one thing has not changed that much: that is the state of Black health in this country.

Despite many phenomenal advances in medicine, technology and community outreach, minorities—especially Blacks—still carry the highest rate of, and worst prognosis for many killer diseases. These include obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer deaths, glaucoma and more. As a result, Blacks (and Hispanics) are still dying at higher rates from diseases that many are surviving in increasing numbers. This fact holds true even for those who have access to medical care and health insurance.

'Why' this is the case, and a list of Black women’s health statistics is listed here, and I’ve provided links to valuable health resources at the bottom of this post. While we are doing better than before, we still have a long way to go when it comes to successful health care outcomes.

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin has initiated a one-page “Family History” web page; there you can identify familial trends in your family tree [This is similar to my 1998 multi-page Health Diary for Women…: Your Personal Log. It was used by hundreds at family reunions to review family health while everyone was together, and was also commissioned by health insurance companies to give to their female enrollees.]

Remember, too, that the human body and the need for health doesn’t stop at the neck; mental health is also vital to individuals, to your loved ones and to the community at large. This is important because without your health—physical and/or psychological—you can’t contribute to the upward direction witnessed in the areas of education and professional careers.

So as you commemorate, celebrate and inaugurate, also educate and motivate yourself and your family, friends, loved ones, church members and others to do what must be done to become better stewards of the one thing they need to secure: good health. Now is the time.

Be Healthy, Be Blessed and remember: It’s your life; live it. It’s your health; know it. Make sure you are Living Well!

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Melody T. McCloud. All rights reserved. Any excerpts reproduced from this article should include a hyperlink to this—my original post on Psychology Today, with author credit. Feel free to post the link to any of my PT posts, to your social network pages. Follow me here at PT; and on Twitter: @DrMelodyMcCloud.

Living Well, Despite Catchin' Hell, a book about health, sex and happiness, with a foreword by Pauletta Washington, musician and wife of Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington; and endorsed by psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere, HBCUs and others. The book includes current comparative data for Black, White, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women. The first book in over 8 years addressing Black women's health; also addresses the effects of negative stereotypes. (print and eBook).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov

American Heart Association: www.heart.org

Office of Minority Health (HHS): http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/

Melodies of the Heart: Poems of Life & Love (eBook with poems about love, faith, sex, being Black in America and more)

Medical Bloopers! Amusing & Amazing Stories of Health Care Workers (foreword by Dr. Neil Shulman, author of Doc Hollywood). (now as an eBook. Bring your sense of humor!)

[Image: 'Repairing the Damage.' by Leroy Campbell. Permission granted for use.]

Melody T. McCloud, M.D., is an obstetrician-gynecologist and the author of First Do No Harm: How to Heal Your Relationships Using the Wisdom of Professional Caregivers.

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