By Danielle Stevens and Annie Alexandrian | Co-Founders of This Bridge Called Our Health
(This Bridge Called Our Health is a volunteer-run platform for Black women, femmes, and girls, and non-Black women, femmes, and girls of color. We have launched a fundraiser for #WorldHealthDay. Click here to support our work)
Today is #WorldHealthDay, an annual day hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) to bring attention to an issue that the organization has deemed imperative to global ‘health’. As we bring attention to status of “health” across the globe, we must consider what “health” actually means for disenfranchised communities. How has capitalism, empire, forces of oppression, and inaccessibility to health care directly informed and impacted the health outcomes of trans, cis, and non-binary women, femmes, girls, and mothers of color? How has the legacy of structural violence impacted the ways in which we access and understand “health” today? How has the pervasiveness of intergenerational trauma and toxic stress impacted and still impact the health and healing possibilities of our grandmothers and our granddaughters, our mothers, our daughters, and ourselves?
While the World Health Organization continues to operate in a very limited health and healing justice framework and has chosen this year to focus primarily on promoting awareness around diabetes, we are critical of discourse that places the onus of solving very complex and structurally-informed health outcomes onto that of an individual. While diabetes is a crucial and important health issue, it’s important that we bring nuance to our discussion about diabetes. According to the WHO, some published suggestions to ‘Beat Diabetes” include cultivating a better diet, working out more regularly, eat more healthy, and so on. While some have the means and access to secure these options, many of us living at the intersections of being Black, disabled, resource poor, disabled, formerly and currently incarcerated, young and/or single mothers, queer and/or trans, and living amongst food deserts and/or in rural communities, do not have the access, luxury, or power to explore these options. Many of us are predisposed to these health outcomes due in large to the ways we are targeted by overlapping modalities of systematic violence; and then are told that we are not doing enough as individuals to care for ourselves, as if we ourselves have created the oppressive circumstances within which we have be subjected to live.
It is important that we understanding how dangerous this idea of “health” actually is, and to acknowledge the harmful ways that “health” has fundamentally been predicated on, connected to, relied upon, and functioned via the operationalization of fatphobia, anti-Blackness, incessant ableism, medical racism, transmisogyny, the western medical industry, and the deliberate disenfranchisement of our people. We must consider how various structural factors like access, income, race, class, gender, and ability have had a profound and often ignored impact on how our society predetermines or define one’s proximity to an imagined and contrived delineation of “health”.
At This Bridge Called Our Health, we understand that we cannot have conversations about community health without recognizing the institutionalized trauma Black communities and non-Black communities of color experience with regard to health and healing on a global scale. We cannot discuss public health reform or advocacy without recognizing the compounded ways Black women femmes and non-Black women and femmes of color have been left out of health provision frameworks as a result of white supremacy and colonization. We cannot ignore the ways the bodies of Black women and femmes and non-Black women and femmes of color have been targetted, abused, exploited, and methodically used as guinea pigs solely for research around white women’s health, and then violently disposed of at the expense of our health needs. The experiences and understandings of Black women and women of colors’ health and well-being have been marginalized and erased from mainstream discussions around health (such as on #WorldHealthDay) entirely and for far too long.
We do not have to wait on mainstream western health spaces to affirm and validate the health experiences of Black women and non-Black women of color, but without it, those who do seek healthcare in these realms do not receive the nuanced, careful care that we need. We end up being neglected in ways that lead to misdiagnoses and the administration of inappropriate care, which can and does have harmful and often fatal consequences. The health of Black women and non-Black women of color is urgent. Systemic racialized, anti-Black violence makes us both ill AND also creates barriers to our healing process.
#WorldHealthDay is often used an opportunity for NGO’s, public health agencies, and non-profits entrenched in policies and governments that perpetuate the very injustices that create health inequities targeting communities of color, use this as an opportunity to fund their harmful practices. We must be critical of organizations that frame their work as public interest, yet rely on funding that requires them to focus on contrived and one-dimension approaches and programs that are aligned with the political goals of their funders. We must call out programs that are not created in collaboration and with input from communities who need these programs the most. This #WorldHealthDay we challenge our communties to think critically about the real changemakers in the field of health today. Today, we want to honor the healers and traditional health workers of marginalized communities of color who continue to resist the medical industrial complex’s approach to healing our communities.
This Bridge Called Our Health is a platform dedicated to complicating the narratives we hold around health while exploring the infinite possibilities of healing for Black women, femmes, and girls, and non-Black women, femmes, and girls of color.
We call upon supporters of This Bridge Called Our Health to help us in further cultivating our platform and challenging the narratives around health today. Help us reimagine and access a world where women and femmes of color truly matter. Please check out and share our fundraising campaign that will help us further elevate the voice of women and femmes of color.