Taking care of your health should be a year-round effort, but this month, as we mark National Minority Health Month, we hope you’ll use this opportunity to take care of yourself, your health and your community. While we’ve made some progress in moving toward better health outcomes for people of color, we’ve still got a long way to go. We must continue working with our communities to transform our world from one divided by disparities to a world united by health equity.
For example, African-American women are twice as likely to lose their lives to cervical cancer as non-Latino white women. Asian-American women are 10 percent more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than non-Latino white women. Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than women of any other racial or ethnic group.
Across the United States, many people of color are deeply impacted by the overwhelming lack of access to health services and education, yet they have some of the greatest needs for preventive care — like lifesaving cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, Pap tests and health education.
Planned Parenthood believes that all women and their families deserve the highest quality of care no matter who they are and where they live — no matter what. We are committed to working in communities to break down barriers many face in accessing health care. We fight to ensure all people get the high-quality and affordable health care they need, regardless of one’s race, income, geography, citizenship status or gender identity. We offer expert resources, accurate information and compassionate counseling; we replace fear with facts, and misinformation with education.
We know that we can improve the healthcare outcomes of every person and every family in our community — regardless of race or ethnicity — when we work together.
In Multnomah County, the recently launched Adolescents and Communities Together Project brings together community organizations to implement evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs for populations at greatest need. Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, Native American Youth and Family Center, Self Enhancement Inc., Latino Network, Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area, Multnomah County Health Department and schools will equip young people with the knowledge and the tools needed to make healthy choices about their sexual health; to be comfortable talking about sexuality with partners, families and peers; and to actualize full engagement as responsible citizens.
In addition, Planned Parenthood is proud to be part of the Pro-Choice Coalition of Oregon, which has proposed landmark legislation to fill gaps in reproductive health coverage that disproportionately impact women of color and immigrant women. The Reproductive Health Equity Act (House Bill 3393) will remove financial barriers and ensure that every Oregonian is empowered to make decisions about whether and when to become a parent.
Unfortunately, right-wing politicians are proposing additional obstacles that stand in the way of essential and lifesaving health care. Blocking access to lifesaving cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood would have a significant impact on communities that need preventive care and early detection the most: people of color, people who live in rural areas, LGBTQ people and people with low incomes. In addition, proposed cuts to the National Institute of Health — $1.2 billion a year — would severely handicap our nation’s ability to research cancer treatments and to diagnose and manage new cases, making existing disparities even worse.
Every year, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette provides nearly 66,000 patient visits for women, men and young people in Oregon and Southwest Washington. We are committed to helping all communities get the healthcare services and information they need to stay healthy, and our doors are open to everyone.
We hope you take the time in April to check in with your loved ones about their health — and then join us as we work to improve health care outcomes for all — a commitment we stand by every day of the year. We know that when people are truly cared for, they make their lives, their families and their communities better and healthier.
Sirius Bonner is the Director of Equity and Inclusion for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, the largest nonprofit provider of sexual and reproductive health care and youth education programs in Oregon and Southwest Washington. For more information, visit PPCW.org.