I’ve been drafting and deleting blog posts for the past two months. Wanting to bring light to the world during this unprecedented time and find meaning in my struggles with work and life while parenting an energetic two year old in quarantine.
As we navigate the continued uncertainty and fear around coronavirus, our country is on fire protesting against police brutality and discrimination. As Trevor Noah shared, while everyone is facing a battle against coronavirus, African Americans are facing the battle against racism and the coronavirus.
As we continue to learn more about the coronavirus, we see that it too discriminates.
It's clear that people with chronic health conditions are being hit harder. While many people experience mild illness, 89% of people with COVID-19 who were sick enough to be hospitalized had at least one chronic condition. About half had high blood pressure and obesity, and about a third had diabetes and heart disease according to data from the CDC.
This data should be a wakeup call for us all. Wearing personal protective equipment and practicing social distancing are paramount in our efforts to avoid infection from COVID-19, but good health is what will keep us alive if and when we do contract the virus.
Currently, 43% of American adults are obese, 6 in 10 have one chronic disease, and 4 in 10 have two or more. The roots of obesity and chronic illness stem from lifestyle, but it's not always about personal responsibility. Growing research reveals that the environments where we live, work, and play shape our health. In fact, our lifespan and risk for chronic disease can be predicted by our zip code.
Though every community is experiencing harm in this pandemic, certain groups are suffering disproportionately, including people of color and those who were already struggling financially before the pandemic hit.
African Americans suffer from the highest rates of obesity and chorionic disease compared to other groups in the United States, increasing their risk for complications when infected by COVID-19. Because of this African Americans account for 13% of our population, but at least 25% of our 100,000 COVID-19 deaths. The same disproportionate death rate prevails among African Americans being killed by police.
As we search for treatments and a vaccine for the coronavirus, we should also be talking about health equity.
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.”
Coronavirus has exposed our nation's racial inequities. It has exposed that in our nation we are not all treated fairly --- from law enforcement, from a virus, and by eachother.
When faced with such seemingly large forces like racism, discrimination, and health disparities it's easy to feel powerless. But as people riot and black Americans continue to die at disproportional rates from chronic illness, police brutality, and now COVID-19 I think we all can agree that its time for change.
As Dr. Camara Jones, past president of the American Public Health Association, shared years ago, we need to address structural racism. Please watch her powerful allegory called The Gardener's Tale if you have not yet. Her Cliff of Good Health analogy is equally as powerful and worth of watching.
Protecting our nation against this virus and into the future will require us to ask uncomfortable questions around our role in maintaining the structural barriers that lead to health inequity, and ponder upon ways that we can dismantle them. We should all examine our biases and consider where they may have originated, call out racist jokes or statements, and validate the experiences and feelings of people of color. We can apply an equity lens to our life and find out what our workplaces, schools, community, congregations, etc. are doing to create equity and become part of the change and join them.
And when we can, we can all lead by example eating a healthy diet, staying physically active and finding ways to reduce stress -- all of which will reduce our vulnerability to COVID-19, enhance the quality of our life, and build a healthier generation to come. We are all in this together.
Hello and welcome! My name is Andrea Notch Mayzeles. I am a Certified Health Education Specialist, Mom, and Master of Public Health dedicated to the path of well-being. As a wellness professional I am committed to continued learning and am here to share research, recipes and musings on health, psychology, personal development, and parenting. I hope you enjoy!