“[Policy,] I would kind of say it’s in my DNA,” said Christin Calloway, the new Programs and Policy Manager for the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness (FFBWW). “In essence I’ve always kind of tested the boundaries in a sense of what rules are and always trying to understand what rules are.”
Prior to her current position, Calloway was already familiar with the foundation, attending their annual celebration of black women’s wellness day and was present for every public meeting regarding the Black Maternal and Child Health Alliance of Dane County, getting to know them “more intimately” upon the release of the 2019 “Saving our Babies: Low Birthweight Engagement” report.
It was only until she and her husband began their journey to start a family in 2017 did Calloway gain a first hand experience at the racial inequalities that exist within maternal health care.
“I became aware of the maternal health disparities here, [the] Black maternal child health disparities,” she said.
“So knowing firsthand and experiencing just the lack of care that happens, particularly in Madison, Dane County, the unconscious bias, maybe was even conscious bias that happens here and just knowing that Black mothers here live with and die from preventable diseases,” Calloway continued.
This, however, was not her first time encountering pervasive racial disparities at a systemic level.
“My work has always been about racialized understandings and racialized experience. So mine started out as racialized in education. Then it became like race to equity like racialized in every venue. And now at the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness is racialized in healthcare.”
As such, it was only natural that Calloway would eventually find her way into a position with the foundation.
“So it was an easy choice to come,” she said.
Since then, Calloway has spent the past month and a half working on a variety of projects.
Calloway began her work with the foundation at the state level providing additional research for the foundation’s contribution to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers Badger Bounce Back budget plans.
At the state level, Calloway and others at the FFBWW have been creating a report, a blueprint for future policies relating to the health and wellness of Black women.
This document, produced by the foundation will “chart a clear course of action to guide and inform the tangible improvement of Black Women’s health and well-being in Wisconsin,” according to the FFBWW website.
“It focuses on the drivers and root causes of health disparities, which are social determinants of health, like education, income, access to care,” Colloway explained. “It depends on your neighborhood, the walkability of your neighborhood, green spacing in your neighborhood, exposure to toxins and then also just the stress of racism on their body as well. So this document is meant to really turn the tide and reset and set an agenda for addressing Black women’s health disparities, particularly in the state of Wisconsin.
“So one of the things that I hope that the work does and that I hope that I’m doing within the blueprint, is humanizing the numbers in a sense, of we’re more than just, just rattling off like, oh they’re six, whatever number there is, more likely to die, whatever. But no, we’re full human beings, we’re resilient, we are beautiful, we’re able to thrive and survive in so many different conditions, and that’s the main thing that I hope comes across within that, that the fullness of our being, comes across and what we deserve as we imagine a world where black women are free and thriving and live in healthy, healthy lives,” she continued.
The report will also feature testimonials from Black women in Wisconsin, provided by the foundation’s partnership with Local Voices Network (LVN).
“We’re not afraid to address racism head on as a public health crisis, threatening Black women and their families,” Calloway added. “…race isn’t a risk factor [in maternal health], ” she continued, quoting founder and President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, “racism is.”
Looking forward, Calloway hopes to continue to work on policies that improve the state of Black women’s wellness across the state of Wisconsin.
“People are policy,” Colloway said. “Storytelling is policy. So really getting that explicit policy that recognizes values the fullness of our being.”