State Of The Union : Black Health

The importance of health in African American communities has reached a critical point. Health plays an important factor in our lives whether we want to admit it or not. Before the current COVID pandemic, African Americans’ health conditions were at an all-time high. Pre-existing conditions such as Diabetes, Heart Disease and Hypertension threaten our livelihoods as well as preventing us from living our normal lives and providing for our families. 

When people with pre-existing conditions contract COVID, often their weakened immunities lead them to having medical challenges that put them in a fight for their lives. Health impacts everyone’s lives positively or negatively.  So how did we arrive at this juncture?

African American dietary habits are often started or influenced by our ancestors and handed down from generation to generation. Most of these dietary habits were established due to limited availability of food.  As such, our ancestors made the best of the ingredients they had at the time. 

In that era, most of our ancestors had physically demanding jobs that required strength and endurance each day. The caloric burn that resulted from a typical day of intense manual labor enabled them to stay somewhat fit. 

Today our diets are very similar however our jobs are less physically demanding. Dietary habits filled with high calories and low exercise lead to the top diseases that are plaguing our communities: Diabetes, Heart Disease and Hypertension. What can we do to gain control of our health?

First, we (African Americans) must deliberately talk about health within our families, churches, and communities. Health has traditionally not been a topic of discussion at the dinner table, barbershops, or hair salons. It is time we change the narrative. Speaking openly about prevention of disease can encourage others to talk about their health and motivate them to make healthier choices.

No one can do this alone as we all need a support mechanism. Children often emulate their parents and/or the behaviors of other adult role models. It is imperative that we set good examples for our youth.

Secondly, we must stress the importance of getting an annual physical exam to establish a health baseline. Establishing a health baseline is critical as it enables your healthcare provider to develop your personal plan of action.

By working in partnership with your healthcare provider and following your personal plan of action you will be able to make incremental changes that will lead to greater health.

During our health journey, we all must pay close attention to our bodies. Warning signs often come before harm. Awareness of health changes in our bodies and acting upon warning signs put us in a better position to protect our bodies.

Lastly, health is a lifelong journey that requires active attention, support, and discipline. There is no silver bullet or magic wand trick. Lasting dietary changes take time.

In closing, it is possible to reverse the health crisis by focusing on being healthier. Establishing a health baseline, deliberately modifying your eating habits, exercising regularly and building a support system is how we can reclaim our bodies and regain our health.

Author : Floyd Smith, Chief Technology Officer, ALBH | [email protected]