HERS helps women of color navigate inequity and overcome barriers in the healthcare system

July 6, 2020

Did you know that ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, and accounts for more deaths than any other cancer of the reproductive system? Women of color have the highest mortality rate with this disease, despite the fact that Caucasian women have the highest percentage of diagnosis with this disease. Yvette Jives wants to change this.  HERS is an organization that helps women, particularly women of color, navigate the healthcare system, bridge knowledge gaps with helpful resources, and find the support they need. We sat down with Yvette Jives, founder and CEO, to learn more.

Tell us about your business and the role you play in it.

I am the founder and CEO of HERS, which stands for Health Education and Resources. HERS is an educational organization that strives to enhance community awareness and participation in their healthcare plan by creating an open forum between community members and their healthcare providers. We accomplish that by presenting an array of topics that generate discussions and ultimately, action plans for both individuals and healthcare providers, as well as the broader community. Healthcare systems are complex, and HERS is a navigator that helps people, especially women, coordinate their healthcare needs in a manner reflective of certain barriers to care.

My ultimate goal is to help shape different outcomes to women of color diagnosis with ovarian cancer and the stage of diagnosis, and thus increase the survival percentage within our communities and the family unit.

My experiences in healthcare has served as a foundation for my strong commitment to develop a program focused on the identification of gaps within the system and a desire to link communities of color to critical healthcare resources to address a silent epidemic that is impacting women of color at compounded rates. Leadership has impacted the promotion of health equity by connecting women of color and families in community settings to resources and partnerships to enable equitable health outcomes around the issue of ovarian cancer. Being a nurse and social worker who has had the opportunity to develop programs, prepare policies/procedures and supervisor a women’s health program, I have noted the limited advertisement of community resources, awareness of symptoms with ovarian cancer and outreach linkage to services for women of color below the poverty levels. Women of color have the highest mortality rate with this disease, even though Caucasian women have the highest percentage of being diagnosis with ovarian cancer.

During my career, I have had opportunities to serve in various health care roles creating programs for women’s health, screening and preventative care featuring Patient Centered Care and HIV Pregnant Women. I have been a nurse for 33 years and experienced the ever- changing structure of the health care system designed to streamline medical services for improvised under-served under insured women. I also holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of South Carolina which I consistently utilizes to strategically mesh with my nursing background to address systemic barriers to social justice and healthcare. I consider myself to be a change agent for the visibility of ovarian cancer. I also have written a book titled Windowed Revelations with Ovarian Cancer, which acts as a reliable and scientific information in story format reference for newly diagnosed women, families, healthcare providers working towards opening a door which is not intrusive but provides a window to a journey of surviving cancer as a whole person.

Where did your vision begin?

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in November 2012. That’s where it all started. As an ovarian cancer survivor, I noted the inequity of services which target ovarian cancer patients and the need for culturally sensitive educational material and outreach vehicles for women of color. HERS is a response to these challenges, and provides an approach that creates appropriate outreach forums for women of color in their communities. By educating women to be sensitive to changes with their bodies, normalizing and participating in discussions involving medical family history, and becoming aware of resources and services inductive to survival, we can make lasting changes when it comes to equitable health outcomes for women impacted by this disease. A positive health outcome for women of color in our community is intricately linked to positive family and community resilience.

What has been your greatest challenge and your greatest victory?

My greatest challenge has been to develop a network within the systemic structure’s medical offices and community health center and partner within their setting as an asset instead of being seen as a duplication of the services already in-place and/or the establishments priority medical component does not resonate with ovarian cancer. HERS is not only a referral resource but an advocate, liaison, monitor of services efficiency and effectiveness centered around individualized patient centered plans as it relates to the patient’s needs and a navigator through the complexities and unknown of the patient’s health/mental care.

My greatest victory? Being a nationwide mentor for the Woman to Woman Program with The Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance and having an article published by this organization about my Survival with Cancer.

What is a little-known fact about your organization?

I serve as a pioneer in the visibility of ovarian cancer, and I am an eight-year ovarian cancer survivor.

What does the word community mean to you?

Community means the collective thoughts and actions of persons’ within and surrounding innovations cultivating change acts and actions towards investing in pivoting the needs of the community in the forefront. Community means resiliency and working collectively towards common goals to penetrate social barriers which prevent communities from thriving, speaking with their own voice and individuals from being their best selves.

How has your business adapted or pivoted during COVID-19?

My business has pivoted during COVID-19 by going through challenges of finding other means to bring visibility to HERS. One way I’ve done that so far is by writing a book which reflects the challenges both realistic and scientifically of being diagnosed with cancer and the emotions which stem from the internal consciousness and unconscious. I have also been researching alternative marketing strategies towards highlighting programs and benefits through HERS via social media, interviews and networking by phone towards connective support systems.

Learn more about HERS