Improving the Health and Wellness of the African American CommunityClinical Expertise
Feb 21, 2022
In honor of Black History month, I want to take the time to highlight the strides African Americans are making in improving the Health and Wellness of our community as a whole and areas that require continued focus. It is exciting to see African Americans engaging in more physical activities and taking more pride in eating healthier. Many more African Americans today are embracing the plant-based life. I personally love meat, however my wife and friends are on a mission to get meat eaters such as myself to be more open minded about a plant-based diet. It’s almost like they want to make veganism “cool.” With prominent figures in the African American community like Beyonce, Serena Williams and many professional athletes having already adopted this lifestyle, it is definitely a movement.
Eating healthy should not be a matter of what’s cool or trendy but more about all the common diseases that ravage the African American community that can be directly linked to food choices. Heart disease, diabetes and hypertension are just a few of the common diseases associated with a poor diet. The foods we enjoy are satisfying but can have serious consequences. This problem though is not a today problem. There is a rich history behind the foods we enjoy. Tracye McQuirter, a nutritionist and author of “Ageless Vegan” states, “In West Africa, for generations, the food was primarily plant-based.” Cooking plant based foods are not new to the Black community. Foods like rice, okra, yams and black eye peas were brought over from Africa. These are all staples in the African American community and are fairly healthy when we don’t add the meats.
Here at Brooks Rehabilitation we have many employees who are adopting some variation of a plant- based diet. Lashia Hicks, Director of Therapy at Brooks University Crossing states, “I initially began a plant-based diet to support my husband, but now I do it for myself. Plant-based meals help reduce inflammation, therefore, my joint pain. Food is medicine and my hope is that the Black community understands that it’s ok to eat soul food but try to add in a meatless Monday or trial meat alternatives as it can reduce the risk of cancer, reduce high blood pressure and just make you feel good!” Onyx Glover, nurse at Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital says, “I have never enjoyed eating meat. When I stopped eating dairy, I truly just felt better.”
There is also a trend in health and fitness programs which focus on combating the racial and health inequities in the African American communities. Many African Americans now have “walking buddies”, work out partners and are even exploring yoga. However, still there are so many African Americans who suffer from poor fitness. This can cause poor mental health which is easily exacerbated during a pandemic. The Covid-19 crisis has placed mental health awareness discussion into the forefront because so many people are suffering in silence with grief, anxiety, depression and many other conditions associated with mental health. While society continues to make gains in mental health awareness, it is still a stigma in the African American community. We must all work together to break barriers and not associate mental health with weakness.
Take care of your mental health and your physical health. See a doctor for regular checkups, annual exams, participate in health screenings, exercise and most importantly, accept that your loved ones, your community and your Brooks family needs you. Take care of yourself and Be Well – Happy Black History Month.