Black women face a variety of health disparities, but tips for living a healthier life were on tap at the free “Your Passport to Wellness Expo,” organized by Heart and Soul Magazine at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. on July 29.
“Heart and Soul has made a concerted effort to ensure the health, fitness, and wellness of women of color, specifically, Black women,” said Michael A. Graham, executive vice president of Heart and Soul Magazine. “We realize that women are the backbone of our family structures. They’re the nurturers, caregivers; they are the ones that ensure that we all survive and thrive. So, it’s important that we take care of them, because often times, they don’t take care of themselves.”
For every 100,000 women, about nine Black and Hispanic women are diagnosed with the human papillomavirus (HPV) compared to seven White women. HPV is a group of 150 vaginal viruses that can cause cervical cancer or genital warts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also reports that Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer than White women.
“Black women in general, because they’re suffering…at a higher rate than other cultures, definitely need to be proactive in that way, to get the numbers down,” David Lacks told the AFRO. Lacks is the grandson of Henrietta Lacks, whose story has gained notoriety after Rebecca Skloot’s book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta suffered from cervical cancer, but her cells were used to create the first immortalized cell lines called HeLa, which have been used in research for years.
From workshops to working out, Heart and Soul provided a full day of wellness geared towards Black women.
“We’ve done a workshop on know your numbers . . . your blood pressure, your glucose level,” Graham said. “If you don’t know, these are the numbers that will kill you, if you don’t stay on top of it, so we did a workshop. We did a workshop on nutrition. Understanding what goes into your food that goes into your body. We’ve done Zumba today. We’ve done Yoga today. We did a workshop specifically ensuring that women start to exercise, start to move, no matter where you are.”
Celebrities were also on hand to help enlighten Black women about the importance of taking care of their health.
“One of our partners, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, brought in [actors] Lamman Rucker and Angela Robinson, both celebrities, talking about HIV, taking care of yourself, wrapping it up, giving away condoms, because if you don’t take it seriously . . . who’s going to,” Graham said.
The larger message of the expo was to teach Black women to truly begin to love themselves.
“Educate women of color to love yourself, because when you love you, everything else falls into place,” Graham said.
According to Graham, Heart and Soul hopes to help decrease the numbers of Black women suffering and dying from diseases that could be avoided or made manageable with the correct treatment. “One of the main ways to help those things is to give knowledge. So, we’re bringing knowledge,” he said. Graham added that the “Your Passport to Wellness” expo is scheduled to take place in four cities this year, including Atlanta in September, with plans to grow to a total of nine markets next year and 20 in 2019.
He said that the reason why so many Black women are currently disproportionately affected, is the lack of education about how to properly take care of their health. “Our ultimate goal is to educate our constituency, to educate Black women,” Graham said.