By Marian M. Inguanzo, MSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM
During my professional career as a social worker I have had the pleasure of working with clients from a variety of social and economic backgrounds. I have also had the distinct honor of being asked by my colleagues in the social service field to present papers at professional conferences. One of the important topics which many of my professional presentations have focused upon is social equality and social justice for minority women. This is an area that has a multitude of critical social issues associated with it. Key among them is the issue of health care equity for Black and Latina women in our society. Developing effective programs that can provide treatment and illness prevention services to poor Black and Latina women living in urban communities across our nation presents many significant challenges to the U.S. health care system that we as service providers need to strategically address.
As a social work professional, my mission is to create an open forum for Black and Latina women to speak their mind about what concerns them most about the care they receive from their health care providers and to offer some practical advice about health related changes that they can make to increase their longevity. Below is a ten-step program that will focus on the relationship between the mind, body, and spirit as components of the healing process. It will examine the physical and psychological factors that contribute to the onset of illness among minority women and the steps that can be taken to promote disease prevention and healthy lifestyle choices in this population. Some of the steps include regular physical exercise to promote weight control and better cardiac function, learning about healthy dietary choices that can prevent the onset of diseases such as diabetes and cancer, and the development and implementation of adaptive coping strategies that can help women to deal more effectively with stressful life situations that can trigger the onset of illness.
A ten-step program for promoting better health and illness prevention among Black and Latina women in the United States:
- Make a Commitment to Behavioral Change – Women must become self-determined by making a strong commitment to behavioral changes that have the potential to enhance their general health on a physical and emotional level.
- Develop an Effective Support System – Women must seek to build effective systems of support within their communities that can provide them with the tangible resources that are necessary to improve their physical and mental health status. Such support systems usually include close ties to family and friends and connections to community based organizations such as churches and schools which offer supportive social service programs that are geared to the specific needs of women in minority communities.
- Seek Professional Mental Health Treatment When Needed – Minority women should have regular screenings for symptoms of clinical depression and receive treatment referrals when necessary.
- Seek Professional Substance Abuse Treatment When Needed – Women with addictions to drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes should seek referrals to community-based programs that specialize in the treatment of these disorders so that they may curb them and bring their lives back under control.
- Become involved in a program of regular physical activity – Women need to engage in regular physical exercise to keep their bodies strong and to avoid illness. They should join a health club or a community-based facility that offers various types of exercise programs
- Become involved in a nutrition education program – Women need to become involved in community-based nutrition education programs where they can learn about dietary habits that can prevent illness and keep them healthy.
- Develop a strategic plan for financial independence – Women must engage in strategic planning that will enable them to set sound financial goals for their lives so that they can achieve financial independence and security in their later years.
- Develop innovative techniques to manage your stress – Women need to develop creative coping strategies that will allow them to better manage the everyday stresses in their lives.
- Develop a clear path to organizing the priorities and goals in one’s life – Women must become self-empowered by prioritizing the goals that are most important in their lives and develop effective strategies that will allow them to achieve them.
- Building self-esteem throughout the life course – Women need to build a strong emotional core that will give them the self-esteem that is necessary to accomplish the life goals that they set for themselves. They must be able to love themselves and develop the drive and confidence that will allow becoming whatever they want to be.