The Mautner Project for Lesbian Health announced on Friday the first-ever national health education program focused on lesbian and bisexual African-American women. The program, called the Spirit Health Education Circle, or SHE-Circle, will be led by Mautner deputy director Cheryl Pearson-Fields and will work to partner with national and community-based health organizations to draw greater attention to and provide education on the specific health issues affecting black gay women.
"For black lesbians, the confluence of race, gender, and sexual orientation can create powerful barriers to accessing quality health care and attaining a healthy lifestyle," says Pearson-Fields. "By coming together in community, SHE-Circle participants will share information, resources, and the mutual support necessary to break down these barriers and make healthier lifestyle choices."
Serious differences in access to and quality of health care for women and black Americans are highlighted in the "National Healthcare Quality Report" and the "National Healthcare Disparities Report," both issued this month by the Department of Health and Human Services's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. HHS's blueprint for the nation's health, called Healthy People 2010, also mentions sexual orientation as a marker of health disparities.
SHE-Circle will be a comprehensive, holistic educational program that utilizes the multidimensional influences of culture and sexuality, according to Pearson-Fields. "The SHE-Circle vision of health is as an integrated system of behaviors and beliefs that promote wellness of mind, body, and spirit," she explained. "This journey toward wellness can only be accomplished by honoring all three." The program will be based on the principle of Ujima, which means "collective work and responsibility to build and maintain our community together."
Funded in part by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the initial SHE-Circle program will consist of six sessions on breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening, smoking cessation, nutrition and exercise, and coming out to your physician. Health education videos on each topic area and a corresponding discussion guide, health brochures, a resource guide, and a wellness Web site will make up the program components.
For more information about SHE-Circle, call the Mautner Project at (202) 332-5536 or send e-mail to [email protected].