5 Questions For: Dr. Lorraine Cole: President and Chief Executive Black Women's Health Imperative

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Dr. Lorraine T. Cole has the important job of trying to help Black women lead healthier, longer lives. As president and chief executive officer of the Black Women's Health Imperative, she takes time from conferences and meetings at the Capitol to talk about Black women's health and moving her organization forward.

1. What is the objective of the Black Women's Health Imperative? The Imperative is a not-for-profit education, research, advocacy and leadership development organization. It was incorporated in 1983 by pioneering health activist Byllye Avery, who empowered African-American women to be educated health care consumers. The Imperative is the only national organization devoted solely to improving the health status of the nation's 19.5 million Black women and girls.

2. What is the biggest health problem Black women face today? Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all American women. It kills African-American women at four times the rate of White women. Each year, more than 40,000 Black women die from heart disease, the causes of which are preventable. Risk factors for heart disease include cigarette smoking, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes. The more risk factors an individual has, the more likely she will develop cardiovascular disease. Just as great a concern is the rapid spread of HIV among Black women, the fastest-growing population of new cases, accounting for two-thirds of new HIV/AIDS cases among women.

3. Why have African-American women become the fastest-growing group of new HIM/AIDS cases in this country? It is a result of unprotected sex with an infected partner. Biologically, women are more susceptible to contracting the virus than men and, subsequently, contract the disease at twice the rate as men. Women often believe they are in a monogamous relationship when they are not. …