By Millicent Gorham
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US, but it’s the leading cause of cancer death in Black and Hispanic women, according to the American Cancer Society. Furthermore, Black women younger than age 50 had a death rate that was twice as high as white women that age. As Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to an end, never has there been a more timely or sobering reminder of the need for a collaborative push for high-quality, preventive care for all women.
In that spirit, we launched the Alliance for Women’s Health and Prevention last week. The 501(c)(4) non-profit organization will advocate for equitable, affordable and accessible preventive health care for women across their life span – and across disease areas.
Preventive services like vaccines, screening, and diagnosis can dramatically improve the health and well-being of all women by lessening disease progression and burden, or, in some cases, preempt the condition altogether. Yet, many women struggle to access and afford these vital services, facing a myriad of barriers that hinder their ability to equitably access care. For example, a National Cancer Institute study found that in 2019, 42% of uninsured women were overdue for their cervical cancer screenings, as they were limited in their ability to find affordable options. Data show that American Indian women were 17% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than white women but 4% more likely to die from the disease. Cancer prevention and early detection mean ensuring that underserved communities get the care they need.
As the Executive Director of Movement is Life and former Executive Director of the National Black Nurses Association, I understand first-hand the importance of addressing inequities in women’s preventive health to improve outcomes. Throughout my career, I’ve sought to address the impact that racial and economic disparities have on patients’ ability to receive equitable care. I’ve also been fortunate to work alongside policymakers in previous leadership positions and recognize the need for concerted action at both the federal and state levels to achieve sustained and systemic change.
Joining the Alliance for Women’s Health and Prevention (AWHP) as the Chair of the Board of Directors feels like a natural extension of my life’s work. Like all my prestigious colleagues at AWHP, I hold a steadfast commitment to advancing policy that drives equitable access and prevents the burden and progression of disease to improve the lives and health of all women and girls.
I am thrilled to serve alongside my fellow distinguished Board members:
- Dr. Haywood Brown, Senior Associate Vice President for Academic and Faculty Affairs for USF Health and Vice Dean Faculty Affairs for the Morsani College of Medicine at the University South Florida. As an OBGYN focused on serving underserved populations, Dr. Brown has had a distinguished career as an academic leader in education, clinical care, and research for more than three decades;
- Gladys Mendoza, MHA, Director for Special Initiatives in the Office of the President at the National Alliance for Hispanic Health. Gladys leads programmatic and financial operations of several multi-state initiatives for a premier community-driven organization with an unwavering commitment to advancing health equity;
- Camille Grubbs, Senior Director of Market Access for the Diagnostic division at Hologic. Camille has dedicated her career to expanding access to women’s health solutions through policy initiatives;
- Lisa Tate, Director of Partnerships & Strategic Development for American Medical Women’s Association and President of Health Futures Consulting. Lisa is an experienced health care leader, patient advocate, nonprofit growth catalyst, fund developer, and thought partner with decades of experiences advocating for women’s health and well-being.
Along with our esteemed Advisory Council, the Board will provide insight and expertise to build on AWHP’s policy priorities to develop an actionable agenda which reflects the needs of women and reinforces our commitment to equitable access. Our initial areas of focus, access to care and treatment, early detection and diagnosis, vaccine access and affordability, and social determinants of health, all play a part in ensuring that women and girls to have access to the most effective and appropriate preventive health measures available.
Forming this new non-profit advocacy organization brings hope for those women and girls who don’t have the tools, resources, and care they need to achieve better health outcomes. Through this work, we hope to help shape a health system where preventive care is equitable, accessible, and affordable for all, and we look forward to collaborating with other women’s health-focused organizations who share our commitment and have already done tremendous work in this area. While our work at AWHP has only just begun, I am filled with a sense of optimism with the hope that we will make a long-lasting impact on the lives of countless women and girls.