Black Women for Wellness (BWW), in partnership with the California Family Health Council and L.A. Care Health Plan recently held Respect Conference: Integrity and Inclusion of African Americans in Health Care, a policy briefing and publication release at the California African American Museum.

The conference provided a space to address the historical and contemporary affects of health care systems and laws on African American women.

The conference also focused on bringing together grassroots leadership, public health advocates, scholars, students, medical professionals, health care providers and other members of the community interested in discussing issues pertaining to the reproductive health of Black women and girls.

Skits highlighted the many health disparities that exist in the African American community and presentations detailed the importance of healthy dieting, exercise, the detriments of cigarette smoking, and many other prevalent issues.

Following the presentation, the women moved into breakout sessions to discuss proposed policies regarding reproductive health and to establish the most successful steps for making sure these recommendations become policy.

The topics addressed were health care quality, and access and utilization, and reproductive health policy for schools to reduce adverse health outcomes.

Among the policies introduced was one dealing with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Office of Planning and Program Oversight. The policy suggested that the departments create a rating system of A through F to evaluate the cultural competency of county-run hospitals, comprehensive health centers and other medical clinics. The evaluation process would consist of bi-annual reports submitted to DHS, client exit surveys, and site evaluations. Rating score cards would then be placed in their facilities similar to how food service facilities currently operate.

When asked how to make this policy successful, the women responded that there must be a clearly defined understanding of what constitutes cultural competency. Second, officials must ensure that service providers represent the population they are in place to serve. Third, to make the recommendation policy, service providers would be required to participate in on-going training.

Another suggested policy involved the Los Angeles Unified School District and other districts in the county, and suggests that standardized, comprehensive reproductive health education classes for students in middle school and high school be required, and that these courses be implemented in accordance to state law. The policy also suggested that individuals teaching these courses be certified in health education.

Participants suggested that more important than receiving this education in school was that it first be taught in the home. To do this, it was suggested that families who receive county assistance such as welfare, general relief, Social Security, etc. be required to take these types of educational training, in order to receive payment.

Some women believed that the children of these families are the ones who are more likely to get pregnant at younger ages, and that they are more prone to contract sexually transmitted diseases.
Women were encouraged to write down and submit a number of other policies and suggestions on how to execute them that were discussed. The organization’s staff plans to sort through the suggestions, compile them and take them to legislators in the hope that they will become policy.

For more information regarding Black Women for Wellness and for additional materials on the conference, visit the organization online at www.bbwla.org.