February is Black History Month and I wanted to use this month's blog post as a way to discuss the continued health disparities among races, incorporating nutrition, of course. Thank you to my boyfriend (Bernard) for coming up with this blog idea.
In order to research for this post, I read the US Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) website and other sources linked throughout this post.
This year for Black History Month, the HHS Office of Minority Health is looking at food insecurity and nutrition as prevalent health disparities that put African American and Black communities at increased risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, as well as mother and infant mortality. Studies have linked food insecurity to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Furthermore, obesity is a large part of the higher incidences of diabetes within the Black and African American communities.
Some surprising numbers:
In 2021, almost 20% of Black and African American households were considered food insecure.
In the US, about 18% of Black and African American adults of 18 years of age and older are considered to be in fair or poor health.
Socioeconomic factors, also referred to as social determinants of health, (which include food insecurity and lack of access to quality health care) heavily impact the overall health and wellness of the Black and African American communities.
So, what are the social determinants of health?
Having access to nutritious foods and areas for physical activity both fall under the Social Determinants of Health.
Think of this: Person A does not have access to a grocery store with typical nutritious foods ->
Person A is less likely to be eating a well-rounded and balanced diet -> Person A is at increased risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. It is, sadly, a vicious cycle.
So, what is being done about this, you may ask?
On a national level, Healthy People 2030 is focusing on combating health disparities. One of their goals is to "create social, physical, and economic environments that promote attaining the full potential for health and well-being for all." They do point out that just recommending and promoting healthier choices is not enough. Public health organizations and those they partner with need to make moves to improve conditions in people's neighborhoods and built environments.
On a local level, in my neighborhood, Central Market is starting a new program which (wow 2 shout outs in 1 post??) Bernard told me about, and I just think is a fabulous idea. On Tuesdays and Saturdays from 2:45 to 3:15 pm the market will be open for "after market" where people can shop produce and prepared items, that would otherwise go to waste, and get them for free! This is huge. It not only helps cut back on food waste, but also helps those that are food insecure within our community. You can read more about the program here: After Market Program.
On a personal level, this is my motivation to become an in-network provider with as many insurance companies as possible. My goal, by spring, is to be in-network with the popular commercial plans (already in with Cigna and United Healthcare commercial - yay!) as well as Medicare and Medicaid, to increase accessibility to my services as much as possible.
We still have a long way to go to minimize the gaps in healthcare and access to adequate nutrition between races, but I hope this gave you a better idea of the correlation between food insecurity and health, as well as ways to help support the change.
Have an awesome month,