Dr. Lorraine Cole: President, Black Women's Health Imperative

Article excerpt


That's how many strides on her pedometer Dr. Lorraine Cole takes every day. She takes the strides because as the president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Black Women's Health Imperative, she knows that every step toward good health--and away from the medical problems that have plagued Black women for generations--counts.

Dr. Cole's mission is extremely personal, and her motivation is strong. Leading the nation's only not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to improving the health status of Black women worldwide is a daunting challenge, but one that she is uniquely prepared for.

When she talks about the health of Black women, she doesn't mince words, and she speaks straight from her heart. Historically, Black women have had the worst health on nearly every health index when compared to other groups of women. "We collectively don't know how poor our health is," she says. Black women's health has remained the same over the last 20 years or gotten worse, even with continuous advances in medicine."

She says that the poor health of Black women can be attributed to high rates of risk factors, such as obesity, drug dependence, tobacco use, depression, sexually transmitted diseases, low immunization rates, and abusive relationships. The lack of health insurance also contributes to health problems Black women face.

She knows the problem firsthand. Her mother died of breast cancer, which is one of the reasons she is so passionate about the national breast cancer campaign.

When, in 2000, Dr. Cole joined the organization, which was founded in 1981 by activist Byllye Avery, she took dramatic steps to increase membership. …