July 31, 2015
Women listen to keynote speaker Queen Afua at last year’s Black Women’s Wellness Day. Photo by Hedi Rudd
“[We] have decided that our lives and our wellbeing are too precious to neglect. We’re no longer willing to be the subject of disparity reports, to bury our mothers and our daughters prematurely, or to be victims of systemic injustice.”
I’ll never forget the moment when I touched a beating heart. It was my third year of medical training during an open heart surgery of a patient with life threatening cardiovascular disease. Because the blood vessels supplying the patient’s heart were so clogged, the patient had to have the clogged blood vessels removed and healthy vessels (taken from the legs) intricately sewn into their place. Risks of this surgery included death, heart attack, uncontrollable bleeding or infection. For this reason, my own heart was beating rapidly as I stood quietly in the stillness of the operating room. The patient’s chest bone was sawn apart; then, I watched as all the patient’s blood that would have normally headed from the body to the heart get diverted through large tubing to a special machine that would do the work of the heart and lungs while the patient’s heart was being operated on. In awe, I watched intently as the cardiac surgeon precisely and delicately replaced each damaged heart vessel. As the surgery came to a close, my heart racing, monitors beeping, and bright lights shining, I slowly extended my hand and placed it on the warm beating heart. I inhaled deeply treasuring the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Time stood still. I then quickly shifted my thoughts back to the gravity of the situation and removed my hand so the surgeon could continue his work. As I stood at the operating table, still in awe, I wondered about what the future would hold for this patient following this risky surgery and hoped for the best. Another thought then crossed my mind: How could this surgery have been prevented in the first place?
Jasmine Zapata, MD
According to the Center for Disease Control and American Heart Association, every year Americans suffer more than 1.5 million heart attacks and strokes. One of the biggest factors leading to these outcomes is cardiovascular disease like the patient I described above. Shockingly, nearly 48 percent of African American women have some form of cardiovascular disease. Let me repeat that again, ALMOST HALF of African American women have some form of cardiovascular disease, significantly increasing the risk for heart attack, stroke, and the need for surgeries like the one I described above.
Similar statistics and disparities among African American women exist in many other areas such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and premature death. I won’t outline them all here, partly due to space constraints, but also because unfortunately, we have grown numb to these all too familiar statistics over the years. Something must change!
One organization working to make this change is the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, a Madison-based nonprofit organization committed to eliminating health disparities and other barriers impacting the lives of women and girls of African descent.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of chatting with Lisa Peyton-Caire, Founder and creator of Black Women’s Wellness Day, a program of The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness. I was so excited to finally connect with her!
Launched in May 2008, Black Women’s Wellness Day has grown rapidly to become one of the most anticipated health and wellness events for African American women and girls in the Greater Madison area, attracting guests from across the state and the country. With more than 500 attendees expected this year, the event features powerful speakers, information-packed workshops, a wellness fair of over 30 exhibitors, fitness demonstrations, a healthy lunch buffet, and an impressive array of giveaways raffled off over the course of the day.
Lisa Peyton-Caire, founder of Black Women’s Wellness Foundation, and Brenda Brown holding tickets (available now!) to this year’s Black Women’s Wellness Day. Photo by Lisa Peyton-Caire
“Our goal in hosting Black Women’s Wellness Day is to empower Black women and girls to take loving control of our lives, our bodies, and our health and to become our loudest and most committed advocates in demanding better for ourselves and our families,” said Peyton-Caire, who gives credit for the event’s growth and impact to a planning team of nearly 20 women and the support of local sponsors.
“BWWD and the community-based work we promote outside of the event are driven by everyday women who have decided that our lives and our well-being are too precious to neglect. We’re no longer willing to be the subject of disparity reports, to bury our mothers and our daughters prematurely, or to be victims of systemic injustice. We’ve decided to create a new vision and that vision starts with us.”
This year’s event will feature keynote speaker Loretta Ross, Co-founder and former National Coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. Ross will speak during the opening luncheon and will be the featured guest at a post-event reception hosted by Access Community Health Centers. To learn more about the event, visit www.blackwomenswellnessday.org or call (608) 709-8840.
The upcoming 7th Annual Black Women’s Wellness Day will be held on September 19, 2015 at the Alliant Energy Center. Be sure to buy your tickets today, and stay tuned! Over the next few weeks, The Madison Times will be publishing a series of articles which will include an in-depth look at the history of BWWD, an exclusive one-on-one interview with Lisa, more about the keynote speaker, spotlights on members of her dynamic planning team, health and wellness tips and much more!
Let’s work together to change the statistics, eliminate preventable causes of death and disease, and empower black women and girls in our community!
Jasmine Zapata, MD is an African-American pediatrician, motivational speaker, public/preventative health advocate, entrepreneur, mentor, mother, wife, and community activist from the Madison area, whose mission is to heal, uplift, empower and inspire. She can be reached at www.facebook.com/drjasminezapata or at firstname.lastname@example.org.