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Tené T. Lewis, an associate professor in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, and Op Ed Project Public Voices Fellow discusses the need for a “Michelle Obama-led campaign with support from the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and/or the American Cancer Society.” Do you think such a campaign would make an impact?

From childhood obesity, to racial profiling, from school segregation to a lack of opportunities for men and boys of color, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have found ways to creatively spotlight many of the major concerns confronting the African-American community and, most importantly, create a national conversation around these issues.   Remarkably however, throughout all of these conversations around race and/or health, there has been a noticeable lack of attention to African-American women, and in particular, their health.  Which raises the question:  How is it possible to have an African-American woman on one of this country’s most visible platforms and not have a serious dialogue about black women’s health?

Perhaps because she herself projects such a strong image as a physically fit and healthy woman (biceps anyone?), many in the general public may be less aware of the pressing health concerns facing the majority of African-American women throughout the country.  By Obama’s age (50), over half of African-American women are obese and 47 percent have hypertension.  African-American women aged 45-54 also have two to three times the rate of diabetes, increased levels of breast cancer mortality, higher rates of hysterectomy and a 60 percent greater likelihood of death from any cause than white women in the same age group.  Funding agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have special initiatives focused on childhood obesity and the health of boys and men of color.  Yet there is no outcry, no movement, and few national initiatives to support black women’s health.

While this is sad, it is, unfortunately, not all that surprising.  As outlined most recently by Kimberlé Crenshaw in response to My Brother’s Keeper, discussions about “race” are most often about African-American men.  Similarly, dialogues about “gender” most frequently center on white women.  Consequently, African-American women’s unique concerns are rarely heard.  Scholars refer to this as the “intersectional invisibility” faced by African-American women.  This invisibility can be emotionally painful and is unjust by most standards.  However when it comes to health, it can also be fatal.  This is the primary reason why we need a larger platform for conversations about black women’s health.

Much of the lack of attention to this issue may be rooted in the fact that women, of all races, are typically busy taking care of everyone else — children, husbands, others in their community. And in the African-American community –a community experiencing disadvantages– this natural pattern may be exacerbated.  Regina Benjamin, the former surgeon general, who resigned in 2013, is an African-American woman who often spoke about the preventable illnesses that affected her immediate family (AIDS, lung cancer, stroke) and the health concerns of the poor, rural community that she served in Bayou le Batre, Ala. (access, difficulty with co-pays).  But she rarely spoke about her own health, or the unique health concerns facing African-American women in a substantive way, except to urge black women not to let fear of ruining their hairstyles get in the way of exercise.  Both Obama and Benjamin project images in line with the “Black Superwoman,” the invulnerable caregiver who is a pillar of strength for her family and her community.  But who cares for the caregivers?

We need a national “Black Women’s Health” agenda that focuses on obesity prevention and improved rates of screening for breast cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes in African-American women.   A Michelle Obama-led campaign with support from the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and/or the American Cancer Society would go a long way towards increasing the visibility of these issues.  It could also lead to targeted funding initiatives and more research to better understand the factors that predispose black women to poorer health, including access to care, differential quality of care, and more upstream factors such as stress and financial strain.  Black women earn 66 cents for every dollar that white men earn (this is less than white women and black men), but are more likely than white women and black men to be single heads of household.  Thus, they make less money, but have to support more people with it.  However, there is very little funding for research on how social conditions affect African-American women’s health.

A national dialogue, convention, or summit around the potential importance of social factors for black women’s health might encourage foundations and governmental funding agencies to reconsider their priorities around this particular topic.  A campaign around black women’s health might also increase awareness of and research on health conditions that are less prevalent among the general population, but are more prevalent among African-American women, such as fibroids and autoimmune diseases like Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.  Finally, having a prominent African-American woman behind such an initiative would send a message to the rest of the world – that black women’s health matters.  And it does.  The longer we go on ignoring it, the more lives we stand to lose. Via washingtonpost.com

Image via AP278609637477.jpg (.Michelle)

Ilen & Lauren Bell are the husband and wife team behind Black Fitness Today, born, in 2011, out of their motivation to change culture, build a platform and lead the charge. Their purpose is to help change the culture towards health and fitness in the African-American community, showcase those who are making an impact, and promote healthier living. They also aim to serve as a platform for African-American fitness and health professionals and enthusiasts who are otherwise overlooked in traditional fitness media.

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#BlackGirlMagic on 2017 American Music Awards Red Carpet

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On the AMAs red carpet: Ciara

The mom of two said she gained 60 lbs during both of her pregnancies and had to work very hard to get back in shape. “I said I wasn’t going to gain 60lbs carrying Sienna…and I did exactly that!” she stated in an Instagram post.

Every postpartum journey is different, but you can’t help but be motivated by Cici! “After delivering my son, a 9-lb. 10-oz. baby, and gaining 60 lbs., I was committed to [returning] to how I felt before I had him. Four months after having him, I was back to my original shape,” she said. “There’s something very empowering about that. Something about that gave me an extra pep in my step, and motivated me even more to go harder.”

Photo: Getty Images

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On the AMAs red carpet: Tracee Ellis Ross

Tracee on her body confidence with the Tracy Anderson Method workouts:
“…I have to say that Tracy Anderson’s workout the last five years has been really good for me. I love the studio atmosphere, I love how beautiful and sexy and long and strong I look when I work out, and I love the loud music.

I find that, as adults, we stay so regimented in our movement, even if we get on a treadmill. The music changes all the patterns, and my body gets to move freely, so you feel amazing—which is ultimately the point of the workouts, too. One of the things that’s most encouraging is you see a roomful of women working their asses off and looking beautiful. You see women in their 40s wearing jog bras and their stomachs out proudly, walking in a stance that says, “I love my body,” and that’s exciting to me.”
(via Health mag)

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On the AMAs red carpet: Kelly Rowland

Kelly on her morning routine: “The first thing I do is at least two or three minutes of meditation. I started doing that after I had my son. It has helped me tremendously. It just puts you in an easier mind space. There’s so much you have to deal with in one day, and I feel like meditation prepares you for anything that comes to you. You won’t flip your lid on the first thing that shakes you up a bit. It puts you at ease.

My favorite thing to eat in the morning is oatmeal. I add a little maple syrup, a little salt, and almond milk, and I’m set. Sometimes I’ll add cinnamon and some raisins and pumpkin seeds. I don’t need caffeine in the morning, but if I have to it’s usually through green tea.

I am a morning workout person. I don’t think I could really be as connected or focused in the afternoon if I didn’t do it… It’s definitely a HIIT workout, and I feel a lot better and more centered from doing it. Having my son really did a number on my body…”
(Via: Well + Good)

Photo: Getty Images

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Millionaire Hoy Leads Live Workout on Major TV Network

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Big KRIT Talks Fitness Transformation

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Evolving Frank

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