Women’s Health Initiative 


What started in 1995 as a Sunday breast cancer awareness-raising program for African American women, the Women’s Health Initiative Conference (known informally as Universal Sisters Conference) has expanded to provide additional opportunities for Bay Area women to learn about their health, well-being, and personal safety.

In 2011, 400 women attended; in 2012, that number jumped by nearly 13 percent. In both years, the event provided credible information on issues that primarily affect women:

  • Breast Cancer

  • Domestic Violence

  • Heart Disease

  • Diabetes

  • Mental Health

  • Financial Security

  • Balancing Work and Family

Notable speakers have included the late Dr. Maya Angelou, noted author, poet, actress and songstress; Beverly Johnson, the first African American supermodel, actress, author and AIDS activist; and Dr. James Hildreth, HIV/AIDS researcher, professor, and current dean of UC Davis’ College of Biological Sciences.

In 2012, the conference was held on World AIDS Day to actively promote awareness and the risks for the disease among African Americans, who account for 44 percent of new infections in the United States.

A sampling of last year’s participants demonstrated a 10 percent increase in women reporting greater consumption of fruits and vegetables and a 15 percent increase in women reporting daily physical activity of at least 30 minutes. In 2012, workshops on diabetes and stress management were offered in Spanish.