by Hayley Brown, Director of Partnerships and Programs
Even though Black women under age 35 get breast cancer at twice the rate of white women and die three times as often, even the most liberal screening guidelines recommend yearly screening should not begin until age 40. According to an Ad Council study, 92 percent of Black women agree that breast health is important and 25 percent of women have recently discussed it but only 17 percent have taken steps to understand their risk. TOUCH, The Black Breast Cancer Alliance (TOUCHBBCA) has seen firsthand how often young, Black women who are unaware of their risk are dismissed by doctors and end up with delayed, more advanced breast cancer diagnoses. We believe that young, Black women need more information about Black Breast Cancer much sooner before breast cancer impacts their lives.
For the Love of My Gurls (LMG) is an innovative, culturally relevant campaign that reflects the breast health needs of young, Black women. Designed through a laser-targeted messaging lens and informed by a Young Women’s Advisory Board, For the Love of My Gurls seeks to empower and equip young, Black women without a breast cancer diagnosis to understand and minimize their breast cancer risk via awareness, action and self-advocacy.
We have crafted three Calls to Action—For the Love of My Gurls: 1) I choose Black Breast Health because protecting my gurls means protecting all Black gurls, 2) I unlock my HERstory and know my risk by talking with my family about our shared health history, and 3) I get to know my gurls as an act of self-care.
By understanding our increased risk, knowing our family health history and performing monthly breast self-exams, we can better anticipate and minimize our breast cancer risk. While our goal is to save the lives of young, Black women through early detection and risk reduction, it is also important that we engender lifelong breast health and self-advocacy practices that these women can carry forward for themselves, their families, and the entire Black community. We have seen that young Black women can serve as information providers and educators for their peers and their families, effectively catalyzing important health conversations around prevention, awareness, participation in clinical trials and family health history.
Under the umbrella of For the Love of My Gurls, TOUCHBBCA offers three major programs to educate, equip and engage around Black Breast Health:
- HBCU Internship: Our interns attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the United States and engage in health-related fields of study. They are tasked with creating advocacy resources for their peers and bringing life-saving conversations to their families. Through a mix of virtual, social media content and on-campus activities, our HBCU interns have the opportunity to open dialogue around breast health.
- Pink Table Talk: Our monthlyPink Table Talk web series airs live on the BlackDoctor.org Facebook page (the last Sunday of each month). Pink Table Talk is a series of intimate kitchen-table conversations that focus on all things Black Breast Health. The hosts of Pink Table Talk are Hayley Brown—TOUCH’s Director of Programs & Partnerships and a young Black woman who was her mother’s caretaker during triple-negative breast cancer treatment—and a young, Black Breast Surgical Oncologist.
- For the Love of My Gurls Education Tour: Live, local education tour events will center around HBCUs and gathering places for young, Black moms. All programs will focus on breast health, risk minimization and management, awareness and action for young, Black women without a breast cancer diagnosis.
By the Community, For the Community
TOUCHBBCA is a trusted voice in the Black community based on our desire to listen to, empower and value Black patients. As a fundamental pillar of our organization, we believe that only through continuous engagement with the community can we effectively serve the community. We have extended that framework to our work with young, Black women.
The For the Love of My Gurls Young Women’s Advisory Board (YWAB)—made up of 13 amazing Black women ranging from 18 to 35 years old from different walks of life—has been foundational to our campaign. Thanks to the YWAB, we’ve been able to accomplish a thorough review and testing of all campaign materials and messaging as well as identify the major topics, questions, concerns, gaps and needs for Black women ages 18-35.
The Impact of LMG and Black Breast Health
While we measure reach and use it to inform our impact, we measure our success based on the number of people we touch. In year one, For the Love of My Gurls reached 351,118 people and touched 29,333 of them. According to our survey data, young Black women report more awareness, understanding, knowledge and intent to change behaviors post-exposure to LMG than before exposure to the campaign.
From the get-go, TOUCHBBCA partnered with Bright Pink, an organization with 17 years of experience in reaching young women with breast health education. Since then, we’ve brought on The WISDOM Study, Protect Our Breasts, Know Your Lemons, FORCE, #Titcheck, Young Survival Coalition and My Density Matters as key partners in our work. LMG is also a proud partner of the WNBA through its Breast Health Awareness platform!
You can learn more about For the Love of My Gurls at loveofmygurls.org and by following @loveofmygurls!