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The Mautner Project for Lesbian Health announced the first national health education program focused on African-American women who partner with women. Building on its successful Spirit Study of Black Lesbian and Bisexual Women's Health and led by Mautner Project's Deputy Director, Cheryl Pearson-Fields, MPH, the Spirit Health Education Circle (SHE-Circle) will draw on its partnerships with national and community-based organizations.

'For Black lesbians, the confluence of race, gender, and sexual orientation can create powerful barriers to accessing quality healthcare and attaining a healthy lifestyle,' said Pearson-Fields. 'By coming together in community, SHE-Circle participants will share information, resources and the mutual support necessary to break down these barriers and make healthier lifestyle choices.'

Funded in part by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the initial SHE-Circle program will consist of 6 Circle sessions: breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening, smoking cessation, nutrition and exercise and coming out to your physician. Videos on each topic and a corresponding discussion guide, health brochures targeting this community, a resource guide and a wellness Web site will comprise the program components. After testing and evaluation, replication packages will be prepared to facilitate dissemination of the program across the country.

SHE-Circle will be a comprehensive, holistic educational program that fully utilizes the multi-dimensional influences of culture and sexuality.

'Because we are Black, female and gay, African-American lesbians can face triple jeopardy in terms of mortality and morbidity from cancer, heart disease and other illnesses,' said Pearson-Fields. 'Serious differences in access to and quality of healthcare for women and Black Americans are highlighted in The National Healthcare Quality Report and the National Healthcare Disparities Report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' blueprint for the nation's health, Healthy People 2010 includes sexual orientation as a marker of health disparities.  The Institute of Medicine Report on Lesbian Health does a thorough job of documenting the barriers and health disparities that keep lesbians from receiving proper breast health education, screening and treatment. 

The National Advisory Committee for the SHE Circle is composed of noted researchers, practitioners, community activists and healthcare consumers, including Former Assistant Surgeon General Marilyn Gaston, MD; Malika Saadasaar, JD, executive director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights; Nancy Norman, MD, MPH, Director of Women's Health at Boston's Fenway Community Health Center; Georgette Howell, MS, RD, LDN, Assistant Professor at Immaculata University; Monique Meadows, Development Director for the National Youth Advocacy Coalition; Rev. D. Abena McCray, Pastor of the Unity Fellowship Church; Ngozi Messam, personal trainer and Community Relations Field Manager for the National Latina/o Lesbian and Gay Organization; Martina Barnes, Deputy Director for the Institute for Behavioral Research; eating disorders specialist Pamela Freeman, MSW; Shakira Washington, MPH, former Research and Program Director of the Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Control Program; and writer, journalist, and Reiki practitioner Ade Aboussena.

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