Public Health Community Advisory- The HALO “Healing and Loving Ourselves” Project: An Academic-Community Partnership to Eradicate Racial/Ethnic and Gender Disparities
Racial/ethnic and gender disparities persist across a myriad of health outcomes nationwide. African American (AA) women are disproportionately burdened by such disparities including but not limited to increased risks for maternal/infant mortality, unintended pregnancies, STDs and chronic diseases. These disparities are exacerbated by the social determinants of health, pejorative stereotypes and historical trauma; warranting immediate attention. The eradication of disparities require multi-prong approaches endorsed, designed, implemented, evaluated and disseminated in partnership with the community; in this case; African American women.
The “Healing and Loving Ourselves” (HALO) Project, funded by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NE-DHHS), is a gender specific, academic-community partnership created by Dr. Renaisa Anthony to eradicate racial/ethnic and gender disparities. Dr. Anthony is African American and the Deputy Director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). She is an Assistant Professor of Maternal and Child Health at UNMC and a Women’s Health Physician at the Charles Drew Community Health Center. She is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of women through the integration of medicine, public health and policy.
The first HALO Project “Mind, Body and Soul: A Women’s Health Retreat” was launched September 2014 in North Omaha to: (1) recruit, educate and engage AA women on topics that impact their health and well being; (2) provide a safe and supportive environment for AA women to share personal stories and perspectives on the underlying causes of disparities; (3) collaborate with AA women to explore solutions to eradicate disparities; and (4) establish an advisory/planning board to sustain HALO Project initiatives.
Since its inception, the HALO Project has convened AA women and allies for topics related to healthy relationships, sexual/reproductive health, mental health and chronic diseases. Both qualitative and quantitative data are collected, analyzed and disseminated back to HALO Project participants and utilized with their permission for academic purposes.
The most recent HALO Project “And Still I Rise: The Impact of Violence on Women’s Health” was convened on September 26, 2015 and focused on violence and police brutality. Women emotionally discussed national headlines like Sandra Bland, riots in Ferguson and Baltimore and personal accounts of racism, violence and police brutality in Omaha. The event ended like all HALO Projects; with a sister circle. Together we recited the late Maya Angelou’s poem “And Still I Rise” a collective moment to indeed heal and love ourselves (HALO).
Written by Renaisa S. Anthony MD, MPH, Deputy Director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities(CRHD) in the College of Public Health (COPH) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC).