Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

The Health Status of Women of Color: Using Partnerships as a Strategy for Affecting Policy

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

The Health Status of Women of Color: Using Partnerships as a Strategy for Affecting Policy

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Health is a basic privilege of life that is beyond and within an individual's power to affect. As individuals we can make choices that can enhance or diminish our health. Health is also influenced by sociological factors such as gender and race that we as individuals cannot control (Anderson, 1988). For example, some of the health problems encountered by women of color and white women are shared as the result of women's physiology. Others are the result of the experience of being women in our society.

The health experience and health status of women remain different from the health experience and status of men (Almquist, 1989). Furthermore, we have not thoroughly examined the extent and causes of those difference nor have we sought possible solutions to the problem. Historically, the results of many studies of male health concerns or phenomena have been assumed to apply to the health needs of women. Studies relating directly to the health care concerns of women have been quite minimal (Crawford, 1992; USDHHS, 1985, 1987; Lloyd, 1990).

Even fewer studies have addressed the health status of women of color. Minority status adds confounding aspects to the health status of women (Chafe, 1977). Health problems particular to women of color are not just the result of being women. They also result from possessing minority status in this country and from the impact that status has on the health of women. It is known that stereotypes of minorities are perpetuated by society as a whole (Edelman, 1964, 1988) and can be found in most sections of society. In the health context, stereotypes of minorities have been shown to have been adopted by physicians and health policy experts (Schneider and Ingram, 1993).

There is a new understanding that, as women and as minorities, health status is not so much a measure of how often you get a cold, but a measure of one's place in society. Although there is no sufficient information to understand these differences (e.g., Morris et al., 1989; National Institute of Health, 1991; Peters et al., 1986; Zunzunegui, 1986), the data we do have indicate that health status among various minority groups is different and significantly influenced by both societal and cultural factors.

In summary, there is a need for serious consideration of the health status of women of color for the following reasons. First, the health status of women is different from the health status of men. Second, the health status of women of color is different from the health status of white women. Third, health status of women of color varies significantly depending on race and ethnicity. Fourth, many health issues overlap and are the result of being both female and of minority status. Fifth, the health status of women of color has not received the attention, money, and research emphasis necessary to discover the specific causes of and solutions to these problems (Crawford, 1992).

How, then, are those who have the power to influence significantly the success of a new health policy agenda and redistribute scarce resources encouraged, if not convinced, to do so (Dye, 1987; Key. 1967)? And how does this type of change occur when those in power do not typically share the same status as women and ethnic minorities? This article will focus on the ways in which women of color can impact health policies. Partnerships are presented as a mechanism that can promote change in public health policy and various components that comprise an effective partnership strategy are described.

INFLUENCING POLICY

The purpose of affecting public policy is to make social change. Social change usually occurs as a result of a social movement which is typically created by people who have organized as a result of being strongly affected by certain social conditions. Such a movement can affect public opinion and eventually public policy (Barber, 1984). But the relationship between a movement and a change in policy can be tenuous. …

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