Byllye Y. Avery, founder of the Black Women's Health Imperative, formerly the National Black Women's Health Project, and the Avery Institute for Social Change, has been a health care activist for over 30 years, focusing on the specific needs of women. She is a co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need and a member of the LLuminari and Be Well health expert network.
Byllye’s commitment to women’s health began in the mid 1970s, when along with several other feminists co-founded both the Gainesville Women's Health Center and Birthplace, midwifery service birthing center, in Gainesville, Florida, known today as the Birth Center.
In 1983, she founded The National Black Women's Health Project committed to defining, promoting and maintaining the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of Black women and their families. The Avery Institute for Social Change, organized in 2002, has focused its work on health care reform.
Byllye has combined activism and social responsibility to develop a national forum for the exploration of the health issues of Black women. She continues to gather, document and speak on Black women's health experiences in America, rallying support for Black women. Her work with Black women sparked a movement of women of color to become involved in defining and work on health issues important to their constituencies.
Byllye has been the recipient of many honors and awards. In 1989, she received the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for Social Contribution and the Essence Award for Community Service. In 1994, she received the Academy of Science Institute of Medicine's Gustav O. Lienhard Award for the Advancement of Health Care and the Grassroots Realist Award by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. In 1995, she received the Dorothy I. Height Lifetime Achievement Award and the President's Citation of the American Public Health Association. In 1998, Business and Professional Women presented her with the New Horizons Award and she accepted a Leadership Award from the University of Florida's School of Medicine. In 2008 she received the Ruth Bader Ginsberg Impact Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women, and in 2010, she received the Audre Lorde Spirit of Fire Award from the Fenway Health Center in Boston.
Byllye has served on the Charter Advisory Committee for the Office of Research on Women's Health of the National Institutes of Health. In addition, she has served two years as a visiting fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. She has received honorary degrees from Thomas Jefferson University, State University of New York at Binghamton, Gettysburg College, Bowdoin College, Bates College and Russell Sage College.
She and her partner Ngina Lythcott live in Provincetown, MA