December 2004

A Town Hall Meeting: Black Women, Lupus & Chronic Illness

On October 28, 2004, CABWHP held an informative Town Hall Meeting entitled "Black Women, Lupus & Chronic Illness: Healing the Bodies & Souls of Black Women." The meeting took place in the Community Room at the Fox Hills Mall in Culver City and was co-sponsored by Senator Sheila Kuehl, Assemblymember Mervyn Dymally and the "Loop Us Together" Support Group.

Prior to this meeting, I had no idea what Lupus was. However, by the end of this meeting, all of that changed. Crystal Crawford of CABWHP began the meeting by sharing some startling statistics. According to the Alliance for Lupus Research, although 1 in 700 Caucasians are diagnosed with lupus, Blacks are three times as likely to be diagnosed. That's nearly 1 in 250 Blacks and 90% of all cases in Black people are in Black women. After listening to this, I was ready to hear more from the panel.

The panel of speakers was diverse. The panel included: Karen Lawrence of the Center for Lupus Care, who provided a comprehensive overview of Lupus; Dr. Mesha Ellis of Pepperdine University spoke about the impact of Lupus on mental and emotional health, Kiara Harris (H & H Ecoprises), provided insight from the perspective of a working woman living with lupus; and Rhea Durr (Representative from the office of Senator Sheila Khuel - 23rd Senate District) put a political spin on the discussion.

As the first speaker, Ms. Lawrence, who is also living with illness, gave a brief definition of lupus. Basically, Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can affect virtually any system in the body. One can think of it as a 'self-allergy' where the body attacks its own cells and tissues. Also, Lupus often mimics rheumatoid arthritis along with other diseases. Ms. Lawrence called Lupus the "look good, feel bad" disease. Therefore, often doctors don't take women's complaints seriously. She also stressed the fact that we must demand answers from our healthcare providers and advocate for ourselves so that providers run ALL of the tests needed to diagnose and treat Lupus.

Prop 72: A Base to Build On

Proposition 72, to ensure that employees get basic health coverage on the job and to expand such coverage to a million more workers, was defeated by a vote of 49% to 51%, a razor-thin margin of 160,000 votes out of over 9 million cast on the ballot measure. It was the closest margin of the sixteen initiatives on California's November 2004 ballot.

THE IMPACT: The result of this referendum means that SB 2 (Burton), which was passed by the legislature and signed into law last year, is repealed. Large employers can (and will) continue to scale back health coverage to their workers, or drop it altogether.

Rather than take a significant step in reducing the number of uninsured, California is likely to see the number of uninsured increase, as well as other resulting problems in our healthcare system, such as emergency room and hospital closures. Taxpayers will still be asked to pay for the health care costs of the workers of Wal-Mart, McDonald's and other large corporations that don't provide health coverage to all their workers, rather than having that money instead fund other Californians in need of health coverage.

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