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How the Center for Black Women’s Wellness is helping Atlanta women thrive

Group sessions and classes not only educate but also help connect women with one another.

Credit: Provided by the Center for Black Women's Wellness/For the AJC

Credit: Provided by the Center for Black Women's Wellness/For the AJC

Group sessions and classes not only educate but also help connect women with one another.

For the past 31 years, the Center for Black Women's Wellness has made a mission of improving the lives of Atlanta's women by increasing access to health care. The goal is to help women and their families not only survive but also thrive.

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"Over the years it's evolved to what the women in the community said they wanted," Jemea Dorsey, the non-profit organization's chief executive officer, said.

Services provided by the center include low-cost health care such as Pap smears, blood work, mammography, HIV testing and nutritional counseling. The aim is to make services affordable and accessible while removing any barriers that may stand between women and getting the care they need.

The women who receive care may have experienced implicit bias, Dorsey said. If they're more likely to be poor, they may also be less likely to have access to everyday things that could help improve their health, such as green space and a grocery store providing nutritional food. They may experience stress and feel overburdened and overwhelmed, she added, as they care for their families.

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"Women are less likely to put themselves first," Dorsey explained. "It's important to take care of yourself."

It's also easy for today's women to become socially isolated, so the center offers group sessions that help better connect women to their community.

"Group sessions tend to work very well because you're building support," she said.

In some cases, Dorsey said, black women who seek care at the center may have felt intimidated in traditional health care settings.

"It feels less threatening and intimidating to come to a community center," she explained.

In addition to its traditional health care services, the center offers psychiatric counseling and has been working on building relationships with specialty care providers. Programming geared toward improving healthy behaviors is also provided, including a Northside Hospital smoking cessation class and a healthy cooking class designed for women on a tight budget.

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The following programs are also among those offered:

Atlanta Healthy Start Initiative – This program is federally funded and serves about 300 pregnant and postpartum women who have a child under 2 years old. It offers home visitation, monthly self-help groups and more.

Interactive Youth Workshops – These workshops educate youth 12 to 17 years old on topics such as HIV risks, healthy relationships, teen pregnancy prevention and abstinence.

Teen Health Leadership Council (L.O.F.T.Y. Crew) – Youth 12 to 17 years old take leadership roles in encouraging their peers to make good, healthy decisions.

Nurses play an important role in providing care at the center, Dorsey said, and volunteers are always needed. If someone wants to volunteer on a consistent basis, they're welcome to do that, but if time is an issue, it's also possible to volunteer for one-time activities.

For more information about the Center for Black Women's Wellness, call 404-688-9202 or visit https://www.cbww.org/.

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