By Chevont’e Alexander
Well, Richmond has scored ‘BIG’ as the second fattest city in the United States, coming right behind Memphis, Tennessee. According to Newsweek’s TheDailyBeast.com, 29.4 percent of Richmond’s population is weighing in as obese. The study also says that 12.4 percent of Richmond’s population has diabetes. Last year, another study showed that Richmond had the third highest ratio of fast food places. Could that be a direct correlation?
But, how is this possible when Richmond is home to great athletic events, races, festivals, and has great parks, and bicycle and pedestrian trails? When did Richmond become fat?
Unfortunately, the Richmond community is blighted by the lack of fresh produce and availability of grocery stores in certain parts of the area. The city of Richmond has even started to focus on areas of the city where residents are without access to healthy, nutritional, fresh food; located in the more low-income neighborhoods across the city. With more convenience stores and access to unhealthy foods, those numbers can add up with national studies, and on the scale too! But, can we blame it all on our environments?
“The Black community always promotes soul food, but nutrition and exercise is never a priority,” says Jeremy Patterson.
Just released this week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the obesity rate will increase to 42% by 2030. The African American community has indeed been plagued by these statistics. According to a 2010 report by the CDC, 78 percent of black women ages 20 and older are overweight or obese (compared with 60 percent of white women). And, as your health risks increase with being obese, so does the amount it costs for treating obesity-related illnesses. Those costs are approaching $200 billion a year.
Among African Americans 20 years and older, more than two-thirds are overweight or obese, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 pounds or more. Teenagers, particularly black youths are increasingly developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and early signs of heart disease. All these are due to poor diets, lack of exercise and inadequate medical guidance. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and death rates. Having excess weight or being physically inactive can both lead to high blood pressure.
But, there is hope, the environment in our schools and communities is changing. However, education, awareness, policy and environmental change are not overnight fixes, so people have to realize that systemic and real sustainable change must take planning, time, people and money. And, the people have to want to change. Just because you build it doesn’t mean people will change.
Bringing Awareness to the Community
Along with obesity, comes the risk for other chronic diseases. The month of May is National Stroke Awareness. National Stroke Awareness Month has been recognized since 1989. Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. According to the American Heart Association, “every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. It’s the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability.” The 2006 stroke death rates per 100,000 population for specific groups were 41.7 for white males, 41.1 for white females, 67.7 for black males and 57.0 for black females.
But, 80% of all strokes are preventable. The American Stroke Association recommends the following to lessen your risk for stroke:
Eat a healthy diet.
Know your numbers, especially your blood pressure.
Exercise every day.
Walk or do other forms of physical activity for at least 30 minutes.
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
Stop any illegal drug use.
Make sure you receive quality care.
Educate, participate, and advocate for stroke awareness. National Stroke Association offers free tools and resources for raising awareness at www.stroke.org.
It is time to get healthy and active!
All it takes is 30 minutes a day to improve health conditions. And, as the saying goes “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, and it really does! It is all about portion control, eating healthy, and being active. Obesity is a growing epidemic in this country, and it starts with awareness and education in our schools and communities.
“There are so many free options for Richmond residents and surrounding counties to become active; we have really nice parks throughout the city that can be utilized to walk, jog or run.” says Delicia Clements, cofounder of SISTAS DO RUN!
SISTAS DO RUN!… W.E. R.O.C.(k)! (Women Elevating Runners of Color) is a female beginner running group started in Richmond in January 2012 by founders, Delicia Clements and Yolanda Newbille. The organization’s mission is to encourage and motivate women runners of color to embrace recreational running and start making healthy lifestyle choices.
SISTAS DO RUN! had their inaugural run in January 2012 in Byrd Park, and attracted over 90+ black women of all different shapes, sizes, heights, shades, and ages to start getting active. The group meets every day during the week at different locations around the Richmond region, and their main group run is on Saturdays. They have an average of 35 women come out on a weekly basis. And, the great thing about the group is that it is FREE. This gives members in Chesterfield or West End Henrico the opportunity to participate on this journey to a healthier lifestyle. Each day members post resources, group runs, and motivational messages to encourage members and family and friends to become more active.
“It’s all about being motivated, involved, and engaged. We want our children, mothers, and grandmothers to eventually adopt a healthy lifestyle and change their habits.” Says Yolanda Newbille, cofounder of SISTAS DO RUN!
All fitness levels are invited to come and join. It begins with the first step to start a new healthy lifestyle. The group encourages the black community to get involved in physical activities and take ownership of their health. The way the obesity rates are rising and this epidemic is becoming more disheartening, it will truly take community advocates like Yolanda and Delicia, the local, state, and federal governments, and school officials to get people moving and proactive about their health.
If you are interested in becoming a Sistas Do Run! member, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or “Like” the page on Facebook.
“We want our SISTAS to be the motivation and the movement in motion,” says Newbille.
Photo by Connie McGowan