Boston Globe Profiles Health Care Activist, Founder of Black Women’s Health Imperative
The Boston Globe on Monday profiled the efforts of Byllye Avery, founder of the National Black Women's Health Project -- now known as the Black Women's Health Imperative -- and the Boston, Mass.-based Avery Institute for Social Change. Avery, who began working on black women's health care issues more than 30 years ago, has spent most of her career "fighting to get people to look at problems through ethnic eyes, to consider cultural and social circumstances, such as race and class, as relevant factors in medical treatment," according to the Globe.
In 1974, while living in Florida after receiving a master's from the University of Florida, Avery established the Gainesville Women's Health Center and "helped pioneer the use of self-help groups for women facing poverty, crime and violence -- bringing social issues into the medical equation to help explain and combat the poor health that was statistically higher in the black community," the Globe reports. In 1978, she helped create the alternative birth center The Birth Place. In 1983, she founded the National Black Women's Health Project to address racial disparities in black women's health and organized the first national conference on the issue.
Avery said that there is still work to be done in addressing black women's health disparities, such as reducing the infant mortality rate among blacks, but that she is proud of the amount of awareness her efforts have raised. "People are more willing to talk about what's wrong with them. Talking out loud helps," she said, adding, "People accepted that there were a lot of other forces involved in what was happening to our health. That's our biggest accomplishment, but the second big one is getting (the medical community) to look at health problems through ethnic eyes."
Avery said that black women "have a right to health care that's readily available, affordable and culturally relevant," adding that she would like to see a "health care center for every bank and liquor store" in black communities (Baker, Boston Globe, 5/19).