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UBUNTU: “I Am Because We Are”: Building a Professional Community for Black Ladies in Public Health

10 Aug

“Public Health provides an aspirational combination of interdisciplinary work, purpose that far exceeds profits, and an opportunity to make real, tangible, change in the world. For Black women, choosing a career in Public Health often guarantees these ambitions juxtaposed to unique complexities of identity and the profession.

Consider a black woman working in Public Health, undoubtedly, she understands [and is constantly reminded] of her membership in populations often disproportionately affected by disease and death. Simultaneously, she bears witness to the occupational penalty, documented as wage gaps and concrete ceilings, despite extraordinary educational achievements. Consequently, these misfortunes are exacerbated with additional intersections of marginalized identity (disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, immigrant population, etc.).

If the data about our population tells us anything, it’s that health and occupational inequities are real experiences for Black women. However, we address these issues as mutually exclusive paradigms that should neither coalesce nor affect public health success. While this is expected, Black women are left to navigate these issues alone.

Black Ladies in Public Health (BLiPH) grew out of this double consciousness. BLiPH created a place nestled between the professional and personal woes of occupational and health inequity. We provide safe-space that does not yet exist in the broader world. BLiPH is the sanctuary where we unpack issues out in the open, through healthy discourse and transformational thinking. We are honest and vulnerable in ways that are restorative to the collective; even the things left unspoken are often understood. We strive to add a more personable approach to engaging and elevating members. We have curated an environment where our identity, our experiences, our education, and our vision are central to the solutions that will transform our realities. We are literally leveraging our status as Black Ladies in Public Health to positively impact the health and success of Black Ladies around the world.”

Dr. Jasmine Ward

Black Ladies in Public Health (BLiPH) was conceived August of 2016, by Dr. Jasmine Ward to create a virtual space to cultivate relationships and promote collaboration in public health scholarship and service. However, the most valuable characteristic of BLiPH became (1) the restorative nature of personal and professional discourse about issues related to public health and (2) the collective resolve to place self-care central to the ideology of the group.

Now approaching the second anniversary, BLiPH is working towards the vision of realizing a more engaged, valued, and empowered membership! BLiPH engages approximately 7,000 members on five social media platforms and fourteen private groups. Top representation comes from cities such as Atlanta, GA, Washington, DC, New York, NY, Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA, Chicago, IL, Houston, TX, Birmingham, AL, New Orleans, LA, and Boston, MA. Most members are based in the United States, however, approximately 10% represent the global community of public health. Top represented countries outside of US include South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Kenya, Canada, Botswana, Ghana, and Uganda.

BLiPH has formally hosted nineteen local networking events, five webinars, several live sessions, and a signature networking social during the 2017 APHA conference. Moving beyond the networking and professional development activities, 2018 ushered in new beginnings, including the start of BLiPH research and service initiatives. One early example includes a digital marketing campaign conducted in February and March of 2018, during Black history and women’s history months, respectively. The campaign — the E.V.E. Awards — was a first attempt to officially recognize and honor Black Ladies in Public Health, past and present.

As the founder, Dr. Ward has been recognized for her commitment to digital social solutions that support collective impact. In 2018, she was accepted to seven professional public health conferences and several community events across the United States. She received national press recognition, a variety of awards, and most recently, a grant to pilot BLiPH focused research. Representing BLiPH, Dr. Ward has provided consulting and technical assistance to public and private-sector organizations with training focused on social media engagement, grant writing, and cultivating cultural competence in public health workforce development.

BLiPH is beta testing, evaluating, and improving our new-forever home; BLiPH.org. BLiPH.org is positioned to catalyze the growth of the BLiPH network and support the actionable pursuit toward the elimination of occupational and health inequities. BLiPH continues to develop innovative digital strategies to address and engage collective interest of the membership. Activities include:

  • Demystifying the work of public health professionals (particularly in the Black community),
  • Recognizing current and historical contributions of our foremothers,
  • Forming professional/leadership development opportunities,
  • Creating access to culturally responsive public health training,
  • Building mentor/mentee relationships,
  • Crowdsourcing public health solutions,
  • Defining health policies,
  • Hosting networking events,
  • Addressing issues that disproportionally impact the health of Black people, women, and more specifically, Black women.

Be sure to look out for BLiPH at the Society for the Analysis of African American Public Health Issues (SAAPHI) 2018 conference in San Diego, where they will highlight organizations using digital platforms to address public health through a social justice lens. We will also host the second annual BLiPH networking social at Sparks Gallery on November 11th, immediately following the APHA opening session. (Doors open at 7pm)Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – @BLiPH16, #BLiPH16 or #BliPH

For more information about BLiPH please email Dr. Jasmine Ward at ladyjward@bliph.org.

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Doctors See Success at Butaro Cancer Center

11 Jun
PIH feature

Photos by Cecille Joan Avila / Partners In Health

 

Dr. Cyprien Shyirambere examines 6-year-old pediatric oncology patient Frank Mugisha, whose name has been changed, for privacy, at the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence in rural northern Rwanda. Medical staff at the PIH-supported facility have treated several thousand patients, young and old, since it opened in 2012.

Five years after opening, the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence is achieving extraordinary successes in rural northern Rwanda, amid daunting challenges.

Doctors at the Partners In Health-supported facility are treating about 1,700 patients every year, young and old, on the campus of the public Butaro District Hospital. The campus lies amid lush, green hills in a remote region not far from the Ugandan border. Many patients, family members, and caregivers travel to Butaro from across Rwanda or from surrounding countries such as Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where high-quality cancer care is scarce or nonexistent.

Some of Butaro’s greatest successes can be found in its youngest visitors—children who come to the cancer center with slim hopes buoyed by fighting spirits, often with cancer that is in late stages because of treatment delays or misdiagnoses elsewhere.

Patients in the pediatric ward last spring included Frank Mugisha, 6. In March, Frank completed 30 months of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and could be seen around Butaro playing and spending time with family members. Butaro staff will continue monitoring him for the next five years.

Dugan, who’s been a clinical officer in Butaro’s pediatric cancer ward for about a year, said relapse is a constant concern.

“It takes a long period of follow-up to be sure you’ve really cured someone,” she said.

Frank’s story is one of hundreds.

Inside the pediatric ward at the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence, a PIH-supported facility at Butaro District Hospital in rural northern Rwanda. Children in the ward often mix in schoolwork, activities, and playtime between treatment and checkups.

While Butaro is very successful, a shortage of health care workers is a key challenge – one that severely impacts Africa. Butaro’s staff often is boosted with support from Dana-Farber and PIH programs.

Jen Haley, for example, is a former Dana-Farber cancer nurse who worked at Butaro as an oncology nurse educator from September to December 2016, through a PIH program.

Haley said she helped nurses at Butaro learn to watch for symptoms at various treatment levels, improve the overall quality of treatment, and educate patients’ families and caregivers about cancer and related care.

“Kids are so resilient. One minute you’re giving them a shot and the next minute they’re running up and giving you a hug,” Haley said.

Butaro’s staff has to be equally resilient, amid limited resources.

They don’t have a CAT scanner, an intensive care unit, or enough nurses. Stocks sometimes run out of needed medicines, and radiotherapy machines are a distant hope.

Shyirambere said he draws strength from successes. Treating children with cancer can be incredibly emotional, he said, but the reward is seeing young patients come back for positive follow-ups, return to school, and resume healthy childhoods.

“You feel like your day has been excellent,” he said.

SAAPHI would like to thank Partners in Health (PIH) for their great work in Rwanda and other parts of the world.

This is an abridged version of an impact story that was originally published in September 2017 at https://www.pih.org/article/doctors-see-daily-success-butaro-cancer-center. Check out this photo gallery to see more images from Butaro’s pediatric cancer ward. Also, be on the look out for more SAAPHI and PIH webinars to learn more about their global public health work and look out for job opportunities from PIH from the SAAPHI listserv.

HIGHLIGHTED STORIES: New Orleans Passes A Smoke Free Ordinance

23 Apr

tobacco-ban

New Orleans has joined almost 700 cities nationwide in going smoke-free. In January 2015, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed and Mayor Landrieu signed into law a new, comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. The City’s new ordinance goes into effect on April 22, 2015.  In addition to smoking restrictions that already exist under state law, there will be new restrictions on smoking and vaping (use of electronic smoking devices) in many locations across the City.

Read more here: https://www.nola.gov/smokefree/

Highlighted Stories: Just Released – New 4th Edition of the Women of Color Health Data Book from the the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH)

1 Apr

The NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) is pleased to announce the publication of the Women of Color Health Data Book, 4th Edition.

The Women of Color Health Information Collection presents data on race/ethnicity and disease. Through data, clues about how culture, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and geographic location contribute to the health status of women of color can be identified. In order to explore sex differences, scientists need data about the similarities and differences between women and men in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions.

Learn more about women of color and their unique health needs, and how the Women of Color Health Data Book, 4th Edition, can assist clinicians in providing person-centered care for diverse populations of women. Please be sure to check out the Data Book, pull-out Data Book collections on breast cancer and HIV/AIDS, and a podcast from the Academy of Women’s Health. Also visit ORWH Director Dr. Janine Clayton’s blog for a commentary introducing the Data Book.

For more information on women’s health, visit the NLM Women’s Health Resources website.

Created in a partnership between the National Library of Medicine Outreach and Special Populations Branch and the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health, this page presents topics pertaining to women’s health collected to support the mission of the Office of Research on Women’s Health to promote research in the field.

HIGHLIGHTED STORIES: WHO Approves Breakthrough 15-minute Ebola Test

2 Mar

WHO Approves Breakthrough 15-minute Ebola Test

 

The World Health Organization has approved the first rapid test for Ebola in a potential breakthrough for ending an epidemic that has killed almost 10,000 people in West Africa, it said on Friday. The test, developed by U.S.firm Corgenix Medical Corp, is less accurate than the standard test but is easy to perform, does not require electricity, and can give results within 15 minutes, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.   Source:http://www.reuters.com

 

HIGHLIGHTED STORIES: People of Color Are Already Getting Hit the Hardest by Climate Change

25 Feb
Sixty-eight percent of African-Americans live within thirty miles of a coal-fired power plant, the zone of maximum exposure to pollutants that cause an array of ailments, from heart disease to birth defects.  Communities of color breathe in nearly 40 percent more polluted air than whites.  African-American children are three times as likely to suffer an asthma attack.  The NAACP launched its Climate Justice Initiative address the stark numbers head on.

More information here: http://m.thenation.com/blog/179407-people-color-are-already-getting-hit-hardest-climate-change

neighborhood

HIGHLIGHTED STORIES: Discrimination is bad for your health-and your kids too

25 Feb

discrimination

There is no shortage of evidence that racism persists.  Despite the fact that science has demonstrated that racial groups are defined by society rather than biology, an individual’s experience from the moment they are born is colored by the color of their skin.  Recently, high profile incidents have focused attention on how people can be treated differently by authority figures.  However the majority of discrimination experiences are much more subtle.  In fact, subtle bias may actually be more mentally damaging than overt bias.  Subtle bias is able to “get under the skin” to influence physical health.

More information here:  http://theconversation.com/discrimination-is-bad-for-your-health-and-your-kids-too-36054