For the second year in a row, literary luminary Maya Angelou will lend her voice to the cause of helping minority women throughout Alabama overcome many obstacles to good health.

September 10, 2010

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - For the second year in a row, literary luminary Maya Angelou will lend her voice to the cause of helping minority women throughout Alabama overcome many obstacles to good health.

To help support the mission of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center in eliminating health disparities through outreach, education and research, Angelou will bring her powerful poetry and captivating delivery to the inaugural UAB MHRC fundraising luncheon, "Rewriting Her Story: Put Yourself in Her Shoes," Friday, Oct. 15, 2010, at 11:30 a.m. at the Birmingham Sheraton Hotel downtown.

Tickets are $100 and will be on sale Sept. 7 through Oct. 8. For more information or to purchase tickets go to or call 205-975-5659.

Mona Fouad, M.D., MPH, director of the MHRC, says studies have shown that African-American and Hispanic-American women use fewer health services, are more likely to suffer from disease and disabilities and are more likely to die from preventable and treatable diseases than other women.

The Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have reported that:

  • 50 percent of African American women are obese. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing many health problems, including stroke, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, breathing problems, osteoarthritis and some cancers.
  • African-American women are both more likely to get breast cancer before age 40 and are more likely to die from the disease than white women.
  • Hispanic-American women are twice as likely as non-Hispanic white women to have cervical cancer.  
  • African-American women are 29 percent more likely to die from heart disease than white women; nearly 27 percent of African-American women have high blood pressure compared to 20 percent of white women.
  • 3.2 million African-American women age 20 years or older have diabetes; they are almost twice as likely than white women to have the disease.

Genetics plays a part in the development of some diseases, but many of them are preventable or successfully treatable - the lack of health care and the knowledge about one's health play large parts in some of the medical disparities.

In 2009, Angelou captivated a sellout crowd at the MHRC gala, which has become this year's luncheon. Her presence, talent and passion helped raise awareness, but, Fouad says, it is the funding the event generates and the people being reached through the center's programs that are most important.

"The MHRC and its staff are translating scientific discoveries into service for those who need it most," Fouad says. "Through staff and volunteers, we have reached thousands of women in urban and rural communities, conducted health screenings, established walking teams, and gone into schools with nutrition and physical activity programs for underserved children. Those are just some of the things that we are most proud of and want to continue to do."

More about Maya

Angelou, a Renaissance woman hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature, was the second poet to have the honor of writing and reciting an original work at a presidential inauguration. Her reading of On the Pulse of the Morning at President Bill Clinton's inaugural ceremony in 1993 earned her a Grammy Award. Her most recent work, Letter to My Daughter, won the 2009 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work-Non-Fiction.

She has authored 30 best-selling titles, has received several nominations for the National Book Award and has won the Pulitzer Prize. Angelou is perhaps best known for her series of six autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, focuses on the first 17 years of her life. Later books include All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes and My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me. She has published several volumes of verse, including Still I Rise, The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou and Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie.

About UAB

The UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center (MHRC) is a comprehensive educational, research and community outreach center focused on eliminating the health disparities of racial/ethnic minorities and under-served populations.