April is National Minority Health Month! The theme for this annual initiative, which is sponsored by the Office of Minority Health, is having a healthy school lunch. And since, students of color access school lunches in greater numbers and are disproportionately affected by diabetes, extreme weight gain, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, this type of focus is really important.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 percent of African-American girls ages 6 to 12 are overweight and 19 percent of African-American boys in the same age group are overweight. In terms of Black teenagers, the numbers are almost the same. In terms of obesity, 22.4 percent of African-American children ages 6 to 17 are obese.
In a statement about National Minority Health Month, President Obama wrote:
Ensuring access to quality, affordable health care helps create the opportunity for all citizens to achieve the American dream. Despite advances in medicine and technology, disparities remain in our health care system for too many Americans, including racial and ethnic minorities, and particularly those living with lower incomes. The Affordable Care Act works to address these issues, expanding health insurance coverage to over 30 million people and focusing on reducing health care disparities.
This year's theme for National Minority Health Month, "Bring it or Buy it Make Lunch Healthy, Green and Good! In Schools, Even Food Can Teach Us a Lesson," highlights the importance of healthy food in tackling childhood obesity, which disproportionately affects minority children. By providing nutritious options and promoting healthy choices, we can reduce disparities among our youngest citizens and secure a safer, healthier future for all Americans.
On the Office of Minority Health's site, there are plenty of ways for everyone to get involved whether you are a parent, a peer educator, a school official or just someone who wants to help educate your community about the importance of better nutrition and being active. You can register to attend forums that promote healthy eating, read tips on how to pack healthier lunches, learn about health heroes who are making an impact in communities of color and learn how to start weekly meetings in your community that educate about certain health issues.
But just because the focus is on youth, doesn't mean that grown-ups should not use this month as a means to be encouraged to be more proactive about their health as well. Remember, we too suffer disproportionately from a range of diseases.
Watch videos of Boyz II Men, Rihanna and Usher honor cancer survivors in their "More Birthdays" videos for the American Cancer Society and National Minority Health Month here.
(Photo: Heiko Wolfraum/Landov)