Eleanor Hoytt: Working to Spark a Health Revolution
Barrington M. Salmon | , WI Staff Writer | 1/31/2012, 12:45 p.m.
In 1983, Eleanor Hinton Hoytt counted as one of 2,000 women at the first National Conference on Black Women's Health at Spellman College in Atlanta. Her involvement as an organizer was prompted by her grave concerns about the state of black women's physical and emotional health. Then, as now, she said, her trepidation was summed up in a nutshell by Fannie Lou Hamer's famous utterance of being "sick and tired of being sick and tired."
Much to her chagrin, Hoytt said black women in America are not significantly better off from a health perspective than they were more than 30 years ago.
So Hoytt, president of the Black Woman's Health Imperative, said she decided to write a book, "Health First! The Black Woman's Wellness Guide" which she describes as a step-by-step guide to better health and living. Her co-author is Hilary Beard, an award-winning health journalist who specializes in health, healthy lifestyles and personal development.
The book is divided by age group and caters to women from 20 to 74, Hoytt said. For each group, the book offers facts and information and that are of benefit to adolescents, young adults, those in mid-life and the mature. It dispels myths while concentrating on the Top 10 health risks and the effects of these - violence, cancer, depression, heart diseases, obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and strokes on black women.
Rather than presenting just a snapshot of the health landscape, the authors share with readers how to beat the odds by developing and adhering to healthy lifestyles and then they focus on how black women can take care of themselves by embracing the concepts of healthy bodies, minds and spirits. Of equal importance is what they term as "self-care" - from knowing one's body and assessing one's health, to drawing a hot bath, replete with candles and soft music to keeping annual medical checkups.
One of the books most appealing features is the personal stories of women who spoke about having a heart attack or a stroke, coping with depression and dealing with other health challenges. Their stories are poignant, inspiring and illustrate the womens' triumph against the odds.
"The book delves into "who we are, how we are and what we know about ourselves, seeing ourselves differently with a new set of eyes and the potential of knowing we can be well," said Hoytt. "I want women to travel a path towards spiritual healing and emotional and physical health. We see this as life-changing. It's not a recipe. We're asking them to look at themselves and see the real truths."
"We indulge in a lot of denial, self-neglect and lack of self-love. This is a move toward tough care," said Hoytt, 68.
At the risk of sounding nave, Hoytt said she seeks nothing less than a revolution around black women and their health.
"Women understand the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit," she said. "We call on our spirit's help in order to be okay. But it's not enough. I truly believe that if one person does it, more can. I want a revolution. This is not enough for us. We need happiness, joy and good relationships."