Opening Remarks

Winter 2024

A quarterly e-newsletter in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office of Health Equity (OHE) shares news, perspectives and progress in the science and practice of health equity.

Leandris Liburd

I am writing this Introduction to the Winter 2024 Edition of Health Equity Matters from my hotel room in New York City. It is snowing outside – big snowflakes and I am giddy seeing the snow as I can’t remember the last time I saw snow like this in Atlanta. I am also excited about being in NYC to promote the Live to the Beat: Heart to Heart Challenge.

February is American Heart Month, and I was invited by the Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at CDC in collaboration with the CDC Foundation to help promote the Heart2Heart Challenge which is focused on Black women. Some startling data: heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. – killing more women than all cancers combined. For a variety of reasons, Black women are bearing the brunt of the toll that cardiovascular disease is having on women in the U.S. The good news is most cardiovascular disease can be prevented with appropriate medical care and lifestyle changes.

The Heart2Heart Challenge is a call to action to Black women and all who love them. The campaign is built upon the premise that self-care is health care. Black women are known for taking care of others – often to the neglect of their own health and well-being. The Heart2Heart Challenge encourages Black women to give themselves permission to prioritize their self-care by committing to take one small step, e.g., taking a daily self-care walk; tracking food intake and physical activity; getting more sleep; practicing mindful breathing; and paying attention to mental health by seeing a professional (if needed). After deciding on the small step, the Heart2Heart Challenge wants women to go public with their decision, and share this commitment with family and friends, and even put it on their social media sites. We can do this! I’ve started my own Gratitude Journal which is one of the suggested small steps, and I use it to reflect daily on how blessed I am! Please visit Live to the Beat | Million Hearts to get more information about the Challenge and be sure to share the website with your friends and social and professional networks.

February is also Black History Month and Black Americans are still making history every day in every sector of our society and globally. The innovation, creativity, leadership, and resilience of Black Americans is second to none. Despite formidable challenges, we “keep hope alive.” Poet Amanda Gorman in her poem “We Rise” reminds us:

So they too know we are not victims,
We are victors, the greatest predictors
of progress. We press for change,
A new dawn drawn into the open
By women whose silence is broken.
We push on and act on
Our responsibility to bring visibility
To the most vulnerable:
To bring freedom to those who didn’t have a choice,
To bring volume to those who are using their voice.

This month, I celebrate my colleagues Tara Robinson – heart attack survivor and heart health advocate and founder of The Black Heart Association (Dallas, TX), and Kinetra Joseph, CDC Foundation Million Hearts® Alliance Campaign Director for all they do to educate, equip, and mobilize communities to take care of their hearts! Thank you for enlisting me in the Heart2Heart Challenge!

Now it’s time to dig into the Winter Edition of Health Equity Matters! As always, after reading this edition, you will walk away with new knowledge, innovative health equity strategies, and inspiration from the profile of our Health Equity Champion. Learn about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s PLACES data that includes nine new Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) measures, CDC’s Project Firstline, and mental health issues among people with disabilities, among other timely topics. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of CDC’s Office of Women’s Health!  Stay tuned for more information about this milestone for CDC’s commitment to protecting the health of women and girls in coming issues of Health Equity Matters.

Of course, I am always excited about and honored to celebrate a national Health Equity Champion!  These distinguished and accomplished professionals make our progress in achieving health equity possible. They are dedicated changemakers and influencers, and their impact is widely felt. For the Winter 2024 Edition, we are pleased to recognize Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr. as a Health Equity Champion! Congratulations, Dr. Martinez! We deeply appreciate your broad reaching efforts to advance health equity, diversity, equity and inclusion, and behavioral health!

On behalf of the Office of Health Equity, I want to thank our readers for subscribing to Health Equity Matters and our Health Communications Team for consistently producing a high-quality newsletter that effectively represents the science and practice of health equity! Be well. Stay safe.