February is Black History Month, March is Women’s History Month, and in the City of Pittsburgh February 15th through March 15th is Women of Color HERstory Month.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services African-Americans have higher rates of disease, disability, and early death. That’s due, in large part, to a lack of health care.
“Black women in Pittsburgh have the life expectancy of women living in Developing Countries,” said La’Tasha Mayes, founder of New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Choice.
As part of HERstory Month, New Voices brought to Pittsburgh the leader of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, a national organization serving the country’s 20 million black women.
“We as people, we as black women, we as women are not destined to be sick, we are not destined to die prematurely, and not destined to live a life of neglect, disrespect, and dishonor, and we are not destined to be in denial about our health,” said President and CEO, Eleanor Hinton Hoytt.
She said black women have to play a more active role in their health, education, and lifestyle.
“Young black women have the highest mortality rate of any cohort. Black women are also at high risk of HIV and HPV. We need to be tested, you need to be secure, you need to ask your partner, ‘are you diseased or not?’” she said.
Hinton Hoytt said right now the US is living through history as the Affordable Care Act continues to be implemented. She said it will change the lives of people today and into the future, and said it’s not a political matter, but a human rights and social justice issue.
She also said education is key, and urged women at a luncheon to take action in Pittsburgh to improve health and education outcomes for young women. But, she said action must be taken to help the one in four Pittsburgh women living in Poverty.
“You’ve got to do more about poverty,” said Hinton Hoytt, “to not expect the women in Pittsburgh to be okay if you can’t do something about poverty.”
In addition to the Black Women’s Health Imperative Hinton Hoytt serves as a member of the White House Council on Women and Girls Domestic Violence Workgroup; and is on the boards of the National Council of Women’s Organizations and Health First of American Charities.