Taking care of your health should be a year-round effort, but this month, as we mark National Minority Health Month, we hope you’ll use this opportunity to take care of yourself, your health and your community. While we’ve made some progress in moving toward better health outcomes for people of color, we still have a long way to go. We must continue working with our communities to transform our world from one divided by disparities to a world united by health equity.

Despite recent decreases, the combined mortality rate for Louisianians with cancer is about 30 percent higher than the national average. In fact, Louisiana has the sixth-highest rate of cervical cancer deaths in the country, and black women are twice as likely to lose their lives to cervical cancer as white women. And among women diagnosed with breast cancer, black women are most likely to die from the disease.

Across the United States, many people of color are impacted by the overwhelming lack of access to health care and health education, yet have some of the greatest needs for preventive health care — like lifesaving cancer screenings, testing and treatment for STIs and health education.

Louisiana’s unintended pregnancy rate is a whopping 58 percent, and our state’s teen birth rate is higher than the national average. Louisiana ranks in the top three for rates of infection for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. And New Orleans has the third-highest rate for new HIV diagnoses in the nation. Baton Rouge is second.

Planned Parenthood believes that everyone deserves the highest quality of care no matter where they live. We offer preventive health care, health information and nonjudgmental counseling. We replace fear with facts and misinformation with education.

In some parts of the country, particularly in the South, where access to quality, affordable health care can be an issue of life or death for many and where there is a deep unwillingness by some politicians to improve health outcomes, Planned Parenthood is working in partnership with local community leaders, clergy, doctors and public health officials to address historic health care needs and health disparities and to increase access to critical health care services.

Every year, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Louisiana provides more than 16,000 annual visits in our health centers in both Baton Rouge and New Orleans that include lifesaving cancer screenings, contraceptives, testing and treatment for STIs, Pap tests and accurate, nonjudgmental sexual health education and information to the people of Louisiana. We are committed to helping all communities get the health care services and information they need to stay healthy, and our doors are open to everyone.

Raegan Carter

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast

Baton Rouge