Deb Belfatto, founder of the Susan G. Komen North Jersey Affiliate, community activist, two-time cancer survivor, and friend of Garden State Woman Education Foundation shares with us her life experiences and her latest project aimed to support and raise awareness of women's health.
Belfatto recently launched Let's Talk: Women's Health & Wellness, a one-day event to support women's health awareness. It took place on October 15th, 2022, and was hosted at NJPAC in Newark, New Jersey. At the event, leading experts in their field shared their expertise on how women can care for their bodies and overall well-being. This event is open to women of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities to learn, share, and celebrate everything about women's health.
Belfatto has gained a great amount of knowledge from her diagnosis experience and her own healthy living. She aims to empower women by supporting, educating, and raising awareness of women's health.
- How did you find your path in supporting women's health?
Belfatto says it all began in 1988 when she had her first breast cancer diagnosis in her early thirties. It came out of nowhere; she had no family history of breast cancer and had been living a very full and healthy life. Her child was two-and-a-half years old at the time, and she was tremendously scared upon hearing the news. She mentions that one of the reasons why she was so scared was that in 1988, a woman in her thirties with breast cancer was not common. Her diagnosis changed her path in life and changed her purpose. Belfatto says that her purpose is a big part of why she created her event, Let's Talk: Women's Health & Wellness.
- What is the best way for a woman to find a healthcare provider?
Use your network, whether that is your tribe or your sisterhood, says Belfatto. To find a good person in health care, Belfatto believes it has to start with you. It starts with living a healthy lifestyle so that you can stay ahead of illness before it gets ahead of you. Be diligent, and once you've identified someone, be prepared to enter that relationship feeling empowered. Ask the questions that need to be asked and approach the relationship the way you would with any important relationship: with confidence. There may be some trepidation if you're going through a health struggle. But be prepared and stay confident. The responsibility is on us to take charge of our health and wellness.
- What women's healthcare services are available for low-income women?
One of the biggest reasons that drove Belfatto to do the work she's been doing for more than 25 years is health equity. Health equity is something that is very important to Belfatto. She says that no matter their socioeconomic status or ethnicity, all women should have access to the quality healthcare that she had access to in 1988 and for her second diagnosis in 2021. She had the privilege of leading the Susan G. Komen North Jersey Race for the Cure. Its mission was to focus on the underserved and underinsured population. The grant money that they put back into the community was intended to ensure that all women have access to quality healthcare. At her Let's Talk: Women's Health & Wellness event, there was a lineup of healthcare experts
that want women to know that there is access to quality healthcare.
- What advice do you have for women that are struggling with their health?
Her Let's Talk: Women's Health & Wellness event provides an abundance of information on this subject. Belfatto advises that you must be proactive and take charge. Make tweaks to the way you take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself is not selfish. It all starts with you being mindful of making small changes. One small change can lead to a bigger change and then to an even better change. "Remarkably, it has to start from the crown to the soul," says Belfatto. She is a big advocate of mental health. Mental and behavioral wellness is critical in today's society. If your mental health is in check, a lot of those aches and pains just might disappear. If you're of a healthy mind, remarkable changes can happen.
- What do you hope women will gain from your Let's Talk: Women's Health & Wellness event?
Belfatto says there will be a feeling of sisterhood and comradery. You may attend the event not knowing anyone, and she is certain that you will leave having made new friends. And most importantly, those that attend will definitely learn tremendous knowledge about women's health. The event will be conversational and gentle, but impactful. The line of speakers will range from expert physicians to other wellness professionals that will teach about topics that may be new to you, such as yoga or reiki. There are so many other ways to maintain and enhance your mental and physical well-being other than just seeing a doctor. The Let's Talk: Women's Health & Wellness event will help educate and empower you to take charge of your well-being.