African-American women are often so busy caring for others that they neglect their own health needs and sexual wellness--but it's by taking care of those needs that they can best take care of others, said psychologist Gayle K. Porter, PsyD, at the sixth annual National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality, held July 10-12 in Washington, D.C.
Porter highlighted ways that women can reorganize their priorities to put themselves first, prevent crises, manage stress and address their physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Several other psychologists spoke at the conference, which has been held each year since 1997 to encourage the Black church community to discuss and prevent teen pregnancy, the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, domestic violence, substance abuse, health disparities, and to promote tolerance of sexual orientation.
This year's summit, sponsored by the Black Church Initiative, drew church members and leaders from around the nation. APA's Lori Valencia Greene co-chairs the Black Church Initiative's advisory committee.
APA Members Adrienne Stith-Butler, PhD, Lula Beatty, PhD, and Tamara Jackson, PhD, talked about the importance of behavior in stopping preventable diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, while Leonard Bates, PhD, discussed sexual orientation at another workshop.
The summit is a great place to get the message of behavior's role in health out to the African-American community, says Jackson, an APA science policy fellow at the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. "Especially when you look at the whole issue of racial and ethnic health disparities, it's important to look for alternative ways to get [health] information out there," she explains. "If you really want to change people's behaviors, it's important to do it within an environment and context that fits within their life, and the church is a great example of that."
Church leaders, adds Jackson, already have established the ongoing relationships and trust necessary to promote healthy behaviors in their communities. The conference provided attendees with several examples of programs they could implement to support those efforts, such as "Breaking the Silence," a five-week, faith-based sexuality education model.
"It was a great opportunity for them to gather specific information," adds Jackson, "as to how they can communicate to their community about the importance of taking care of their emotional, physical and sexual health."