By Leigh Mills NBC 15 Evening News Anchor | Photo Courtesy Foundation For Black Women’s Wellness
It was a year of hard endings and new beginnings for Lisa Peyton-Caire. In 2006, her mother, Roberta Peyton, died at 64 of congestive heart failure, after battling the disease for more than 15 years.
“Watching my mother’s health struggle changed me. Her death pushed me to recall how common it was for me to observe black women dying at a young age,” Peyton-Caire says. “I started writing the names of women I recalled, and when I got to 50 names I just dropped my pen. I could have kept going. It was a wake-up call that we can’t get to the point that we accept black women dying prematurely at a high rate from a largely preventable reason.”
That led Peyton-Caire to try to change this pattern she had been observing her whole life. After a few years of planning, she held the first Black Women’s Wellness Day in 2009 in Maryland, where she lived at the time.
“We had 40 people gather at a public library that day to acknowledge what is happening to us and make a statement about changing it,” Peyton-Caire recalls. “We wanted to inform, inspire and empower black women and girls to build and sustain healthy, wellness-centered lives.”
Peyton-Caire brought the event to Madison when she moved here in late 2011. She was surprised to find that racial disparities in Dane County outpaced those in Maryland.
“We saw people living but not thriving. I met with health care providers, and discovered we needed more than an annual event. We decided to create a nonprofit to give us the structure and wherewithal to do more outreach and education with women year-round.”
To that end, Peyton-Caire founded the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness in 2012. The foundation hosts several educational events and wellness gatherings, and it partners with organizations around issues that impact black women’s health.
“We want the community to realize that black women’s health is a concern we all should share. In Dane County the average age of death for women in all categories is 60 years old. That is unacceptable, and that’s a public health concern,” she says. “We want the community to realize that collectively we have to find a solution to this immediately, so Dane County can go from one of the worst places for health outcomes for black women and their families to one of the best for black families to grow and thrive.”
And while Peyton-Caire says she is very encouraged that they have created a movement and helped women change how they approach their health, she says more work needs to be done.
“We want to move that action on the ground into systemic change that our partners and health systems can embrace to make a major difference in health outcomes,” she says. “The needle is moving slowly, but it’s not changing quickly enough.”
SEPTEMBER NONPROFIT EVENT
Sept. 16 | 9 A.M.-5:30 P.M.
BLACK WOMEN’S WELLNESS DAY
Join hundreds of women and girls to experience the transformative power of taking charge of your health. This year’s ninth annual Black Women’s Wellness Day—the signature education event by Lisa Peyton-Caire’s Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness—is all about owning your health, mind, spirit and life and features women who are doing just that. Join local fitness diva Chloe Brown in the latest and hottest dance workout demos, enjoy free massages, health workshops and over $4,000 in raffle prizes—including hair care products from Naturally Curly. Then, listen to words of wisdom from keynote speaker Susan L. Taylor, founder and CEO of National CARES Mentoring Movement and editor emerita of Essence Magazine. Take control of your health and celebrate with friends in this community-organized and powerfully moving event.
Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall, Madison.
Register for tickets: bwwday2017.eventbrite.com.