Linda goler-blount

Linda Goler-Blount Talks 40 Years Of Saving Lives Through Black Women’s Health Imperative And 40 More Years To Come

The Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) started its celebration 40 years on Sept. 22 in the spirit of “Loving Black women deep down in its soul,” Dr. Mae Jones, chief operating officer of BWHI, said in her opening remarks for the event. The anniversary of BWHI’s initial conference was June 24-26, 1983.

The national nonprofit organization has been at the forefront of healthcare advocacy for Black women since its humble beginnings at Spelman College, where the first BWHI conference (then-National Black Women’s Health Project) took root in 1983. Roughly 200 attendees were expected to show up and participate in panels and workshops around Black women’s health issues — but an unexpected 2,000 participants descended on the all-women’s college campus, proving there was a need for advocacy and an interest around Black women’s health and policy.

Founder Byllye Avery led the charge. Avery set out to “address the massive challenges of racial and gender-based health disparities affecting Black women” and ultimately created the “magic” BWHI has accomplished over the last four decades.

BWHI’s Homecoming Celebration will touch down in five cities and feature Sarah Jake Roberts and Sheryl Lee Ralph. The 40th anniversary came full circle at Spelman. It kicked off with a State of Black Women Symposium that featured Pulitzer Prize-winner Nikole Hannah-Jones and BLACK ENTERPRISE‘s own former executive editor Caroline Clarke.


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BE caught up with Linda Goler-Blount, the Black Women’s Health Imperative’s president and CEO, to discuss the importance of the organization’s past, present — and following 40 years into the future.

BLACK ENTERPRISE: Linda, you stand at the helm of such an amazing organization now in its 40th year. That’s a terrific feat, particularly around things that benefit Black women.

What does that truly feel like?

Linda Goler-Blount: It feels like an incredible privilege. You know, there are many talented, qualified people out there, and ten years ago, the board picked me. They picked my vision. They picked my passion, and that’s not lost on me. Many people could have done this job, but the board selected me. So, I don’t take it lightly.

I see what the privilege is, I see it in the faces of Black women on the street, in the offices and in the airport where I spend a lot of time.

I know [Black women] need an organization who’s there for them, who’s gonna make sure they have access to information, services. They’re included in research so that when we talk about evidence-based medicine, they’re part of that evidence.

It fills my heart with incredible love and joy because somebody needs to work for us. That’s my job, and I get to do that.

That’s such a commitment, and 40 years of work speaks to the commitment. A few things that hit home and struck a chord are that Black Women’s Health Imperative is for Black women and Black women – and what you said about us not needing more research.

If Black women don’t need more research, what is needed?

You know, we don’t need more research because we already know what the issues are. We don’t need to study health disparities anymore. We know what causes health disparities. And we know what will solve health disparities. We know its political will. We know its policies. We know it’s putting resources where they belong. That means changing people’s behavior.

Right now, the way the system is organized – it benefits the people who created the system, but we need that system to change – and we can make that change.

We can vote, we can run for office, but we can also work in the policy field, which is what we’re doing.

Maternal mortality: we hear those statistics all the time about how bad maternal mortality is every day. The government has quality measures for certain healthcare issues. If providers don’t meet those quality measures, they don’t get reimbursed. So, we have to work at the policy level as well.

We have to work at the community level, but we have to change policy because, honestly, we can’t count on providers doing things because they’re the right thing to do.

I was unaware of the Black Women’s Health Imperative until two years ago. Where can women tap into BWHI? It’s important to know about resources as much as it is to access them. 

Well, they should go to and sign up to get on our newsletter. We keep people up to date on the policy changes in our policy work and everything that we’re doing right.

We were instrumental in getting the PALS Act passed, which is Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screening. They wanted to raise the age to check for cancer to 50, but [BWHI] said no.

But also, as things happen in the moment, [BWHI] is on Instagram, Twitter, X,

We can direct women to the information they need in the moment so that they always have what they need to make the best decision for themselves.

We love to see it. So, finally, the past 40 years have been amazing. What can we expect for the next 40 years?

It has been amazing. I’m really excited about the next 40 because now we get to move into a new realm of data, data science, analytics, artificial intelligence, precision medicine, all of which have to include Black women, not only as patients but as the developers, the coders, the creators.

What we have to look forward to is the next 40 years of medicine and public health, economics, education, climate, all of that, including our input and taking into consideration our lived experiences.

Whatever policies or practices that come out of this include us and are for us and are something that we can rely on and that we can work with.

RELATED CONTENT: Sheryl Lee Ralph And Pastor Sarah Jake Roberts Honored With Black Women’s Health Imperative’s 2023 Vanguard Award For Championing Black Women’s Health