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Our Story

The first nonprofit organization created by Black women to help protect and advance the health and wellness of Black women and girls.

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38 Years

38 Years of Working For Health Equality for Black Women


That’s how Byllye Y. Avery, our founder, described that first conference at Spelman College in 1983 in Atlanta, Ga., which birthed the National Black Women’s Health Project (The Project). The lasting legacy of that conference and the organization that sprung from it is due to the empowerment of countless Black women.

The Project is now called the Black Women’s Health Imperative.

Since inception, the organization has been at the forefront of women’s health issues, through comprehensive public education initiatives that promote overall wellness of Black women. In 1990, BWHI opened a public education and policy office in Washington, D.C., the seat of policy and advocacy for reproductive rights. But, it was not until 1995 that the board realized the opportunity to become better positioned to address the massive challenges of racial and gender-based health disparities affecting Black women. A decision was made to establish a national presence in the nation’s capital and relocate our national headquarters to Washington, D.C.

Jocelyn Elders

With a broadened structure of national and local affiliated organizations and a change in name to the Black Women’s Health Imperative in 2002, the Imperative instituted aggressive national programs in health policy, education, research, knowledge and leadership development and communications to save and extend the lives of Black women. Presently, the organization continues to be dedicated to promoting physical, mental and spiritual health and well-being for the nation’s 19.5 million African American women and girls.

Our Milestones

1981- 1991
Our First Decade
  • Convened First National Conference on Black Women’s Health
  • Purchased Headquarters “Phoebe House” Lucinda Bunnen
  • Established Center for Black Women’s Wellness in Public Housing community
  • Developed Signature Self-Help Methodology and organized self-help groups nationwide
  • Took Delegation of 25 Women to Kenya for UN Decade for Women
  • Initiated the international program Sister Reach
  • Published “Vital Signs” health news magazine
  • Produced “On Becoming A Woman: Mothers and Daughters Talking Together”
  • Launched the Walking For Wellness Program with Olympic Track and Field Gold Medalist Wilma Rudolph
1992- 2002
Our Second Decade
  • Participated in Exchange program with women in South Africa, convening conferences in Johannesburg, Durban and Lenyenye
  • Published “Our Bodies, Our Voices: A Black Women’s Primer on Reproductive Health and Rights”
  • Developed Black Women’s Wellness Study with University of Pennsylvania
  • Published “Body and Soul: A Black Women’s Guide to Health and Well-Being”
  • Launched REACH 2010: At the Heart of New Orlean
  • Launched
  • Implemented substance abuse prevention programs on 8 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)
  • Produced the video, “Let Me Know, What’s Going On? My Body, My Self, My Life”
  • Initiated the national television smoking cessation campaign “Because I am A Queen”
2003- 2013
Our Third Decade
  • Held the National Colloquium on Black Women’s Health with Black Caucus Braintrust and Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus
  • Published “Lasting Legacy, Oral history of NBWHP”
  • Co-sponsored the March for Women’s Lives
  • Hosted over 100 disadvantaged youths to an evening at the Kennedy Center to see Debbie Allen’s “Pepito’s Story”
  • Published the comprehensive health guide “Health First! Black Women’s Guide to Wellness”
  • named by Essence magazine as #1 Resource for Black women
  • Awarded grant to conduct wellness programs in five cities
  • Released PSA on Breast Cancer featuring Avery Sunshine
  • Awarded 2012 Women’s Empowerment Award
  • Received the 2013 NAACP Literary Image Award
The Present
  • Published IndexUs:What Healthy Black Women Can Teach Us About Health
  • BWHI’S My Sister’s Keeper Program Partnered with “Know No” movement to inform students on what consent is and what it isn’t
  • Held the inaugural MSK Policy Summit in Washington D.C.
  • Published the Black Women’s Health Agenda & Report Card in 2018 and 2019