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U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown: Holding our first statewide Black Women’s Health Symposium

Our office is holding our first Black Women’s Health Symposium. The free conference will take place virtually. It started on Saturday, Sept. 26 and will continue this Saturday, Oct. 3.

It will include panel discussions, workshops and speakers addressing physical, community, mental and economic health.

We began planning this event last year, after we heard from Ohioans who were deeply concerned about rising rates of Black maternal mortality, and all of the disparities in health that Black women have faced throughout our country’s history.

So we began working with women around the state who are leading on these issues to talk about how we can do more to improve health for Black women, and address the persistent racial and gender gaps in all the underlying social factors that determine people’s health – education, housing, job opportunities, environmental hazards, stress, and so much else.

We held roundtables around the state beginning last winter, bringing together health care practitioners and researchers and advocates. As we had these conversations, we talked about all the great work being done in Ohio, and the need to elevate these conversations and connect leaders from across the state, and the country.

And then of course the coronavirus pandemic hit, and this took on new urgency.

This pandemic has been the “great revealer.” The women at this conference have always known that racism threatens their health – but now the rest of the state and the country are beginning to finally pay attention.

We knew it was more important than ever that we continue planning for this conference — so we moved everything online. We worked together to plan this symposium with experts who have been doing the hard work on these issues for a long time, and we’re going to arm attendees with “tool-kits” to help them to navigate these barriers and to advocate for change.

And we want to hear direct feedback from attendees. This event is part of a commitment to engage with communities that have been silenced for too long, and work together for long-term change.

The best ideas aren’t going to come out of Washington – they’ll come from Black and brown communities who have been living with these inequalities and fighting this fight for generations.

That’s where the idea came from for the resolution we introduced this summer, declaring racism a public health crisis at the federal level – it came from Ohio cities and counties that were leading the way.

I’m excited about the ideas and solutions and feedback that will come out of the conversations Ohioans will have over the next two weeks.

Sherrod Brown is a Democrat and the senior U.S. senator representing Ohio. His office can be reached at 202-224-2315.