As we celebrate Black History Month, we honor the commitment of civil rights, medical and political leaders, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Thelma Patten Law and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. who believed all people need access to health care to complete their education, plan their lives and protect their families.

Far too many African Americans continue to face unequal access to proper health care and education services. As a result, African-American women are dying at higher rates than their white counterparts due to breast cancer, cervical cancer, HIV and other illnesses that can be detected early. As long as there are barriers to economic and educational opportunities, as well as social and political equity, obstacles will also remain in the way of full health care.

Our 17 health centers across Connecticut serve 64,000 patients each year and our education and training team provides comprehensive sexual health education to almost 7,000 teens and nearly 1,000 parents/guardians. We are committed to breaking down barriers that restrict access to health care and education services by ensuring all people receive the care and information they need to stay healthy, regardless of race or income.

The history of the reproductive rights movement is as complicated as the nation’s, but throughout our history, Planned Parenthood and the black community have worked together to break down barriers to health care access posed by poverty, racism and politics. We understand this history is complex, and as such we remain committed to growing and strengthening our partnership.

Over the last 100 years, many African Americans have laid the groundwork to the great strides we have made in improving health care outcomes for the community. These leaders of the past inspire our present and make way for the future.

During Black History Month we remind ourselves that this work is only successful if we continue to develop partnerships with the communities we serve and other organizations leading the work. This united work will not only improve health care outcomes for all, but create fair opportunity to succeed in all areas of life and make people’s lives, families, and communities stronger.

Kafi Rouse is Director of Public Relations and Marketing with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.

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