Aligning Pink Money with the Heart and Head: Why Pink Ribbon Money Matters for Women of Color

Women of ColorIdeologically, it just makes sense.  For Komen andPlanned Parenthood, women’s health is the priority.  Funding the lifesaving care Planned Parenthood provides has always seemed like a “but of course” for Komen supporters.

And yes, I may be biased a bit.  But lest things seem muddier than they are, let me explain.  I came to believe in the work of Planned Parenthood from a very logical examination of the work PP does as part of my own educational journey.

It’s simply academic.  There’s sound rational justification.

              African American women have the highest incidence rate of breast cancer among women under the age of 40, and are more likely to die from breast cancer than white or Latina women.

             Still yet, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Latinas, accounting for 15% of the deaths by cancer.

It’s also an issue of the heart.   These women are our own mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, colleagues, cousins, neighbors…

So, how do we as a society go about addressing this critical issue of racial and ethnic health disparities in the rates of death from breast cancer?

Let’s take a look at some key drivers of this issue.

First, frequently women in these communities don’t know they are at high risk for developing breast cancer.  Early detection of breast cancer is essential – it significantly increases the rate of surviving an incidence of breast cancer.  Given the higher risk of developing breast cancer and also a higher risk of death associated with breast cancer, women in these communities must be especially mindful – do self-examinations and have regular clinical breast exams.


Next, women in these communities must have access to medical care.  Many factors impede this, including poor patient-medical provider relationships, lacking adequate medical insurance coverage, and simply visiting a medical provider.


Turns out, it’s not that complicated in the end – education and access.

So how do we go about providing this critical education and increasing access to medical care in order to reduce the risk of death from breast cancer among African American women and Latinas?

Once again, not that complicated: As a society, we must be in the African American and Latina communities providing both education and medical care.

Ergo, Planned Parenthood.

Yep, that’s right – Planned Parenthood already exists in these communities providing critical education and lifesaving services.  And Planned Parenthood is trusted by people in these communities.

Perhaps you should know one other fact:

          Gynecological examinations are frequently the portal for other healthcare for women.

Many women don’t get annual physical examinations.  And when they do seek out medical care, women are most likely to seek out gynecological care.

And what is routine practice in a gynecological visit?  You got it – clinical breast exams.

So perhaps the picture is coming into focus.

Women of color need education and access to medical care in order to successfully win the battle against breast cancer in these communities.  Planned Parenthood is already in these communities providing sexual health education and providing preventative medical care, particularly gynecological care – think of Planned Parenthood as the gateway to the community. Early detection of breast cancer increases as more women in these communities connect with a Planned Parenthood educator or clinician.  The more care Planned Parenthood can provide, critical education and lifesaving access to medical care, health in these communities increases.

And more lives are saved.

Komen money is highly effective when it is given to these existing and trusted entry points in these communities for women’s medical care and education.  Women are educated by the programs they fund.  And, women who come into Planned Parenthood for other services and receive a clinical breast examination, when indicated, receive a referral for a mammogram with a promise of payment, thanks to the Komen funds – a referral and subsequent appointment they would not otherwise have sought out.

Make sense now?  There’s a reason Komen and Planned Parenthood have been partners for several years.

This pink partnership should continue.  It saves lives, particularly for the most vulnerable women.

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  • Roberta Echelson

    Komen has made a good case for being interested in the health of all women. part of that case rested in their support for Planned Parenthood. But right now, it appears that (national) Komen is somewhat less interested in the health of poor and generally underserved women. National Komen’s leadership has determined that political posturing is more important than women’s health.

    It is a great shame that once again women are fighting with women over limited resources. And the political extremists who have been gunning for Planned Parenthood (because PP dares to continue providing medical care women need) watch joyously over the chaos they have wrought.

    It comes down to this… Women’s rights to control our own bodies must trump the political extremists who cause women’s blood to run. There are other ways to get breast cancer funding – but extremely few ways to get the total health package PP provides – and the ability to access care.

  • Mag

    My! My!My! it is so critical that we VOTE, that is the only way we can change how far washington reaches into the lives of those of us who are in need the underserved, I have been sounding the alam on how families of cancer have being treated when thay cannot afford the basic needs, I love komen I have tried to tell them what the needs are they pretended to hear me but I know that they are not paying attention, God knows every thing happen for a reason, this had to happen so the world can see what is going on in washington how much it is affecting the minorities, now there is a candidate  running for president who don’t care about the poor because they have a safety net,yea right!!! is this the safety net he is talking about, if so, may God have mercy on our soul.
    Our President is trying to help the needy, but people who control the wealth is doing every thing they can to stop it for getting to the ones who are in need,this is a perfect example of the powers that be, I help raise money for komen, I have an organization that help survivors, yet they have not even look into the direction of basic needs, but I do hope that this is a wake up call, they make millions of dollars every year, why take away the funding for the ones that need it the most, P.P.H is just the name, it is the people they served that counts not management.
    This is just the start of the wrongful things they are doing under cover to the people in need, that will come to light, God don’t like ugly.
    Ms. G

  • Susan

    Great posting!  I think it’s also important to note that regardless of what your political beliefs are, cancer affects everyone — liberals and conservatives and everyone in between.  It’s wrong to deny preventative health care to the most vulnerable people (the working poor) because of another service that the health care provider performs on other patients that contradicts a few people’s political beliefs.

  • Mary B.

    Finally someone who’s sticking up for women of color. I am sick and tired of pundits using women’ health for political gain. God bless us all. This is only the beginning.

  • Argonautexplorer

    Great post – Dr. Carrillo’s thoughtful  essay exposes the whole episode as a test of how much are Americans willing to act based on moral values as opposed to cost benefit analysis lubricated by money and political calculus.

  • Christina

    Glad to see the working of social media, like your post, come together to inform and educate those with misconceptions on the true purpose and good that planned parenthood does.  As someone who just lost my mother to breast cancer because it was detected too late, I can attest to the need for funding and education of early breast screening.  Appreciate your advocacy!