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Women of color – what we know and don’t know about their unique health challenges

Women of color face both racial and gender disparities in the incidence, onset, and outcomes of diseases as diverse as cancer, heart disease, HIV infection and age-related disability. The unique health challenges these disparities present are examined in an article published in Journal of Women’s Health, a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Journal of Women’s Health website until May 15, 2016.

Based on presentations by leading experts given at a workshop on The Health of Women of Color, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Research on Women’s Health, the article highlights some of the key disparities affecting women of color. A team led by Jennifer L. Plank-Bazinet, PhD and Janine Austin Clayton, MD, NIH (Bethesda, MD) and including scientists from Virginia Commonwealth University and the National Cancer Institute; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and National Institute on Aging of the NIH coauthored the article entitled “A Report of the Women’s Health Congress Workshop on The Health of Women of Color: A Critical Intersection at the Corner of Sex/Gender and Race/Ethnicity.”

Among the disparities discussed in the report is the higher mortality rate from breast cancer for African American women, despite having a lower incidence of breast cancer than other racial/ethnic groups. Other topics include the greater likelihood that African American and Hispanic/Latina women will be HIV-infected compared to white or Asian women, and the significant racial and gender disparities in the onset and outcomes of cardiovascular disease.

“By highlighting recent advances that explore and explain the higher risk that women of color face for a range of serious health problems, this article brings to the literature key research findings on racial and gender disparities,” says Journal of Women’s Health Editor-in-Chief Susan G. Kornstein, MD, Executive Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women’s Health (Richmond, VA) and President of the Academy of Women’s Health.