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IndexUS: What Healthy Black Women Can Teach Us About Health

Posted: October 20, 2017

The Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) has reached millions of women, sharing the latest research, life-saving programs and health-promoting policies. Recently, they released IndexUS: What Healthy Black Women Can Teach Us About Health, the first health index focused exclusively on healthy Black women. It’s based on 20 years of data from the Boston University Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), specifically, information from 38,706 BWHS participants who reported their health as excellent or very good. In 2013, when they responded to questions about their health, the average age of women in this study was 55. 

It is a rare opportunity to get to listen to Black women talk about their health, and their voices, sorely needed, are seldom heard. Thanks to ESSENCE Magazine and the investigators of the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), BWHI has a unique and incredibly valuable look at Black women’s health, what is important to them, and what Black women are doing to maintain and improve our health. IndexUS is a result of listening to Black women—almost 60,000 strong.

The Black Women’s Health Study, led by researchers at Boston University, has contributed to the understanding of Black women’s health and wellness and the differences from White women and others. These differences have been examined over the past 20 years and determine that Black women’s health is worse than White women’s.  It has been learned that most of these differences are not due to genetics or biology, but to systems and structural barriers that prevent Black women and low-income women from choosing behaviors that help them to be as healthy as possible. And so, over time, a narrative that equates Black women with poor health, and poor health with poor behavior has been accepted. It is what is seen in media and read in the language of research reports. Medical providers accept this narrative and, as a result, often don’t offer Black women aggressive treatment or pain medication. Researchers accept this narrative and don’t ask questions of data, or don’t collect data that might change the narrative. And policymakers fail to advance legislation that would make engaging in healthy behaviors easier. 

Despite the constant narrative that something is wrong with them, Black women see themselves quite differently.  Black women exercise, eat healthy, are educated and work hard. It’s time to change the narrative. They do not see themselves as broken—stressed, yes, but not broken. They are inherently strong, resilient and passionate about our health. They are not defined by disease, obesity or poverty.

IndexUS visually represents data findings, provides an important narrative, shares useful tips, and explores a variety of topics including:

  • Still Gotta Get Up in the Morning: Stress and Mental Health
  • Our Black Bodies, Our Full Selves
  • The High Price of Health
  • Sexual Healing
  • Nothing But a Number? Healthy Aging
  • Why Black Women's Health Matters to You
  • Your Role in Black Women's Health
  • We Have Cause for Concern

Download a copy of IndexUS from

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