By Steffini Bethea
Having spent 20 years as a wellness professional, I have come to notice some alarming disparities in the fitness and wellness habits between my own African American sisters and Caucasian women. When it comes to health concerns, our needs and even desires are just DIFFERENT. Closing the gap on this misalignment of health has been the sole focus of my service for the past 5 years. So obviously, when it comes to my candidate of choice for President, one that considers tackling the disparities in health care a priority is the one that I support. I was excited to see that Barack Obama makes his position clear in the “Issues” section of his website.
After reviewing Senator Obama’s principles on these disparities, it became even more evident to me that he was the best man for the job.
Senator Obama’s plan includes 6 key principles:
1. Quality, affordable health care for all
2. Lowering health care costs and ensuring affordable high quality care for all
3. Quality, affordable and portable health coverage for all
4. Modernizing U.S. health care system to lower cost and improve quality
5. Increase transparency in healthcare industry
And my favorite,
6. Promoting prevention and strengthening public health
That fact that Barack Obama is willing to tackle this disparity HEAD ON is great! But the question is, “Are my sisters willing to take prophylactic measures regarding our own health or are we going to rely on the government to pay for our healthcare as a result of self neglect?” also, “At what point do we take responsibility for our own health?”
We know the stats; we even know what to do. We just don’t do it.
The life expectancy of a Black woman is 75 years compared to that of a white woman, which is 80 years. Black women are twice as likely to have diabetes, at 30% higher risk of heart disease, 40% higher chance of a stroke and 69% of us are overweight. It is clear that too many of us are at risk for poor health and it is often directly related to being overweight or obese.
Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger. The message is, sisters, we have to start exercising and eating better. We have to find balance between food and physical activity. In other words, we have to put out more calories than we take in. Contacting a reputable wellness professional is a good first step. A good wellness professional would advise you on what your daily calorie needs are in terms of both exercise and nutrition.
A good nutrition program will include, eating 4 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables a day, limiting fats, sugars and sodium. It also includes enjoying foods rich in essential nutrients from all 5 food groups and drinking plenty of water. Beware of gimmicky programs that promote eating only “this” or none of “that”. It is better to increase exercise as opposed to drastically reducing food calories. The food guide pyramid is a good source of information. You can visit MyPyramid.gov for more specific information.
After knowing how much food you should eat you can then start on your physical activity program. It is important to be physically active most days of the week. Physical activity is considered activity above baseline or activity above and beyond your everyday activity. In other words, because you are on your feet everyday at work does not mean you can count that as your exercise. It takes about 60 minutes a day of physical activity to prevent weight gain. For sustaining weight loss, it takes at least 60 to 90 minutes a day of physical activity. Some strength training should also be included at least 2 days a week. Strength training enhances weight control, aids in body reshaping, further builds muscle and it also allows you to eat more…. eventually!
So Sisters, let’s commit to give the combination of exercise and nutrition a chance in ’08. At present, less than 4 cents of every health care dollar is spent on prevention and public health. Even if the government doubles its efforts and puts in 8 cents, it still won’t be enough. We have to STOP putting our money where our mouth is and invest in our own health by eating more fruits and vegetables as opposed gorging on empty calories, lowering our caloric intake and increasing exercise. You are not alone. Most of us have tried every program on the market and then some to no avail. The bottom line is, “TOTAL CALORIES COUNT”. The combination of proper nutrition and exercise is the BEST way to control your weight and the best way to obtain or maintain optimum health.
I love the fact that Senator Obama has not just taken notice of an issue that plagues our community but has a good plan of action for it. However, ultimately, it is up to us to DO OUR PART to close the gap on the disparity in health that directly affects us all.
Sources:Stats taken from US department of Health & Human Services
Senator Obama’s principles taken from the website www.BarackObama.com
Steffini Bethea is the creator and developer of “Fit In The Spirit”, the LAST weight management program you will ever need. Steffini is a fitness consultant who is available to speak at local churches and women’s groups on fitness and wellness concerns. For more information on “Fit In The Spirit”, contact Steffini Bethea at firstname.lastname@example.org.