Spelman College, the famed historically Black college in Atlanta, has decided to use its athletics department’s $1 million budget and put it toward promoting health and wellness for the entire school body. This new “Wellness Revolution,” which begins at the end of this academic school year, will help better the lives of 2,100 students, as opposed to the 4 percent of students that are Division III athletes.
What prompted this decision?
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Spelman's president, told the Associated Press that she was concerned with the state of the health of not only her current students, but those who have already graduated.
"I have been to funerals of young alums who were not taking care of themselves, and I believe we can change that pattern not only for them but for the broader community,” she said, adding "We are trying to meet students where they are in terms of their interest, but also helping them understand that the elements of wellness...are the kinds of things that are going to help them avoid the kinds of illnesses that are killing African-American women far too early.”
And Tatum’s concerns are not unwarranted — the state of Black women’s health in the U.S is something that we all should be worried about.
African-American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S, according to the Office of Minority Health. Seventy-five percent are obese or overweight and 25 percent of African-American women older than 55 has diabetes. We are more likely to die from certain cancers such as breast cancer, heart disease and strokes, all of which have been linked to weighing too much.
Spelman faculty and staff hope that redesigning their physical education program and adding new programs will make a difference in these disparaging health stats.
Spelman has always had a physical education requirement, but it’s redesigning the curriculum to focus more on fitness and activities career women are likely to continue with as adults: more running, less archery; more yoga, less badminton. Instead of teaching how to play the game, instructors will help students understand their own bodies and their individual needs. It’s all about personal wellness.
In addition to the PE classes will be voluntary not-for-credit courses, already available but limited in scale because most campus resources were directed toward intercollegiate athletics and not co-curricular activities. Those courses will include things like Zumba and hip hop aerobics — “lots of creative courses that students find very interesting and are participating in already,” Tatum said.
While Tatum admits that she understands her students’ disappointment, there are times when the end justifies the means, especially when it comes to Black women’s lives.
What do you think? Is Spelman doing the right thing for the overall health of their students?
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(Photo: REUTERS/Tami Chappell /Landov)