Report calls for political action to address black women’s health disparities

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Black female doctor

Research shows that whites with kidney cancer consistently outlive blacks with the same condition. (Photo: Fotolia, ©bst2012)

Women’s health and reproductive issues have quickly become hot button issues in this year’s election cycle, yet the nuances found among women of color have traditionally been left out of the spotlight.

A recent report published on Forbes.com reveals that women of color, regardless of class, are disproportionately affected by critical health issues affecting U.S. women. When compared to white women’s major health issues, HIV, abortion, and pregnancy-related complications all affect women of color, particularly African-American women, disproportionately negatively.

Specific statistics listed in the report include the following:

-African American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women.

-Nationally, black women account for 66 percent of new cases of HIV among women.

-HIV/AIDS-related illness is now the leading cause of death among black women ages 25-34.

Political strategist Atima Omara-Alwala, author of the report, also addressed the the absence of prominent black women advocates, such as Melissa Harris-Perry, Donna Brazile, and Julianne Malveaux, from the national discussion on women’s rights and reproductive health coined as the “war on women.”

Additionally, U.S. Census report projections show women of color will become the majority of women by 2041, Omara-Alwala stated. These factors highlight the critical need for solutions and more inclusive discussions regarding  black women’s health disparities.

The lack of national attention given to issues specific to African-American women belies the major influence that this group has on the upcoming presidential election and the nation’s economy.

An increasingly important voting bloc, African-American women produced upwards of 97 percent of the Democrtatic presidential vote in 2008, cementing themselves as the party’s most faithful contingent. Still, national news outlets have failed to include this demographic in statistics-based coverage or narrative examinations of voters, as Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich pointed out in a commentary piece for Women’s Enews.

A recent study conducted by Nielsen also demonstrated that in addition to voting power, African-American women also possess a large amount of spending power. Often the primary drivers of household purchases made, African-American women are slated to wield a majority of the $1.3 trillion buying power that African-American consumers are predicted to reach by 2015.

Given the largely influential impact that African-American women have on the nation’s economic advancement and political life, the huge health disparities faced by the group are worthy of direct address by both governmental bodies and mainstream media outlets.

“With an America that is rapidly becoming more racially diverse,” Omara-Alwala concluded, “anything less is a disservice[.]“

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