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February is American Heart Month, an ideal time to highlight heart health to the communities you serve. Not only does February contain Valentine’s Day, it comes shortly after the holiday season, when we tend to eat too much rich and sweet food. It’s in February when individuals may struggle to stay committed to their New Year’s resolutions. American Heart Month offers an opportunity for you to double your efforts to improve heart health in your community and encourage those you serve to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle.
We know African American men in particular can benefit from focusing on their heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men. High blood pressure—the leading cause of heart disease and stroke—affects more than 40 percent of all African American men, and is even higher for African American men who live in the southeast region of the U.S.
The good news is that most heart attacks and strokes can be prevented. That’s why this February during American Heart Month, Million Hearts® is challenging African American men to start one new, heart-healthy behavior, taking one step at a time until they’ve made all the recommended lifestyle changes. You can support this effort by encouraging the men in your life to:
Healthy is strong! Share your successes with others on Facebook, and visit the Million Hearts® website to find tools you can use to help African American men in your community set heart-healthy goals that last a lifetime.
Dr. Janet Wright is the Executive Director of Million Hearts®, an HHS national initiative, co-led by CDC and CMS, with the goal to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. by 2017.
If you are like most American women, you began the New Year with a desire to lose weight. You’re one month into your journey and, you may have uttered “I just can’t find time to work out,” “I hate sweating,” or “I’m having a good hair day, I’ll hit the gym tomorrow.” If your New Year’s resolution to exercise and achieve a healthy weight is already losing steam, know that you are not alone and know it is critical to stay the course—your life depends on it.
February brings together American Heart Month, National Wear Red Day, Black History Month and a focus on what black women can do to live a healthier life. At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH), we have dedicated the past 30 years to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities. One of the biggest public health battles that have emerged since our inception is the obesity epidemic in America. Since 1980, U.S. obesity rates have more than doubled and remain the highest among all high-income countries worldwide. Adult obesity rates are presently at or above 40 percent for blacks in 14 states. And black women fare the worst, leading all adult groups in combined overweight and obesity rates. This makes February 2016 an ideal time to call attention to this stark racial and gender disparity and join together to help combat this deadly disease.
Let’s have a heart-to-heart about obesity.
Unhealthy weight matters! Obesity is a major risk factor for multiple leading causes of death among black women. Among the top 10 killers of black women are heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers, all of which are linked to obesity. Though obesity is now endemic to the U.S., no population has greater prevalence than black women. Current data indicate 82 percent of black women are overweight (25> BMI) or obese (30> BMI), which translates to 4 out of 5, and rates continue to climb. The good news is obesity and its consequential premature death is preventable.
A key driver of the epidemic is living a sedentary lifestyle. Such physical inactivity is highest among black women, and this trend carries over from adolescence. Between genders and across races, black girls likewise report the highest rate of physical inactivity. Accordingly, black women lead prevalence rates in hypertension, diagnosed diabetes, and stroke. Systematic reviews of physical activity intervention research find social support to be the most effective mode of generating an increase. So, grab a girlfriend and make your new 2016 fitness routine a group effort.
Be a resolver, but be resolute.
Estimates show 40-50 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Weight loss is the most common resolution; included lower on the top 10 list is increased physical activity. Unfortunately, goal attainment is dismal by year’s end. Behavior change experts find that few Americans are successful in achieving their resolution. Their research suggests that individuals make a list of resolutions with an accompanying plan of action for the best chance of success and establish a firm personal commitment to not only goal achievement, but lifestyle change.
No one can go back and make a brand new start. Anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
As you prepare to distribute Valentine's Day gifts this February, place yourself at the top of that recipient list. Grant yourself the gift of life through a healthy lifestyle. As a young black woman consistently juggling more daily tasks than I have time to complete, I plan to incorporate fitness and stress management in my life through a new weekly yoga routine. I encourage you to assess the areas of your life that could benefit from a healthy change and develop a plan of action. This month and every month, take better care of yourself, not only of others; it can save your life. According to inspirational author H. Jackson Brown, Jr., “The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” After all, yesterday’s the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift.
Dana M. Sampson, MS, MBA is a Public Health Analyst in the OMH Division of Policy and Data and the Black/African American health policy lead for OMH. She also serves as an Associate Investigator for CVD prevention intervention at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Ms. Sampson joined OMH from the NIH Office of the Director where she developed national and international community health programs among underserved populations.
Ed. note: This was originally published on the White House Blog.
Summary: This week, the White House Initiative on AAPIs kicks of its third annual National AAPI ACA Week of Action to urge AAPIs and others to #GetCovered.
When Lusi Maumau’s husband changed jobs, they lost their health insurance. They went uninsured for months – scrimping and saving for a basic doctor’s visit and praying that no medical emergency would hit them.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, they were able to review their options with someone in their community and find a plan that worked for them. Lusi found a plan that provided the quality health care coverage her family needed, and was truly affordable.
Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, stories like Lusi’s have been repeated again and again. She and her husband are two of the nearly 18 million Americans who have gained health care coverage. And, if you still haven’t enrolled, the time to do so is now.
In spite of so much progress, too many of our fellow Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) lack health coverage and don’t see a doctor regularly. In fact, 1 in 4 AAPIs has not seen a doctor in the past year; among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, it’s only about 1 in 3. Under the Affordable Care Act, nearly two million uninsured AAPIs have gained access to health care options. However, more than 200,000 people in our communities still don’t have the safety, security, and peace of mind that comes from being covered.
This week, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, housed within the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the Action for Health Justice collaborative, kicks off its third annual National AAPI Affordable Care Act Week of Action to urge AAPIs and others to #GetCovered. You have until January 31, 2016, to enroll through the .
The Week of Action’s activities include a stakeholder call today; an #AAPIhealth Twitterstorm on Wednesday; and additional social media activity to share information, resources, and stories throughout the week. For the latest information and resources, including in-language materials, click here.
Lusi and her husband’s journey to getting quality, affordable health care would not have been possible without in-person assistance. In-person assisters, also known as navigators, are trained experts on the enrollment process. Many of these experts speak multiple languages and are often community members themselves, helping individuals and their families sign up for the health insurance – many getting coverage for the first time.
For example, Wah Wah Kyaw is a Burmese American outreach worker at a nonprofit in Philadelphia. As a navigator, Wah Wah receives satisfaction in helping her clients obtain health care services and educating them about the benefits of health insurance. A refugee to the U.S., she works as a navigator because she wants to give back to her community by educating others about the importance of having health coverage.
Krishna Bista is a navigator who works out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he encountered a woman at a Nepali store. After speaking with her, Krishna discovered that the woman did not have health insurance for herself or her baby. Krishna offered to assist her in enrolling and was able to submit the application within less than a week.
As a navigator, Krishna has seen many clients who have never made doctor’s appointments or dealt with medical bills, or knew how to apply for health insurance. Thankfully, Krishna is there to help.
Check out your options for coverage that meets your needs and budget at HealthCare.gov. You can also call 1-800-318-2596 for help in nearly 250 languages, or find help in your community at LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov. The deadline to enroll is January 31, 2016.
Remember: health equity is a civil rights issue. It’s an AAPI community value. We can prevent so much death, disease and harm by taking better care of our health. And it starts with making sure you are covered.
Dr. Vivek Murthy is the United States Surgeon General and Vice Admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He also serves as Co-Chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Tina Tchen serves as Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff for the First Lady.
Students in the town of Planada, CA, sat at tables with enlarged maps of their community and brightly colored sticky notes. During their participation in an interactive THRIVE (Tool for Health and Resilience in Vulnerable Environments) workshop, they began to understand the impact of the environment on behavior. Fourteen-year-old Jonathan noted, “If we ask our mothers to go outside, they say no – because of traffic or because it’s dark. There are no streetlights.” Jonathan did not know at the time that this workshop would launch his path as a youth advocate who challenges place-based injustice and promotes health equity.
Created by Prevention Institute (PI) in 2002 with support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH), THRIVE is a framework and tool to help communities develop a shared understanding of how community determinants of health, including factors in the physical/built, social-cultural, and economic/education environments impact health, safety, and health equity. THRIVE supports communities in moving from understanding to assessment and action for change at the community level.
In 2011 OMH provided funding to the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI) and PI to update THRIVE and train 12 member institutes to implement THRIVE in their communities. In addition to Planada, THRIVE has been used in numerous urban, suburban, and rural communities across the U.S., with community partners and residents from low-income communities of color, including youth, immigrants and refugees.
Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program (CCROPP) staff attended a THRIVE training, and in turn conducted three trainings, including one for the Student Education Empowerment Development Squad (SEEDS) in Planada. Planada, a predominantly low-income Latino community has entire neighborhoods with no sidewalks, no street lights, no crossing lanes or slower speed zones around schools. As a result, SEEDS youth decided to focus on enhancing safety near schools and on other key routes in their town. Jonathan and others presented to their county board of supervisors, testified before a California Senate Committee and worked on other environmental and transportation justice efforts. They ensured that the Planada Pedestrian Improvement Plan included youth perspectives on environmental change to improve pedestrian safety.
With deepening income inequalities in the U.S., and a rapidly diversifying population, comprehensive efforts to improve social determinants of health, especially at the community level, have never been more critical. In this time of growing challenges and opportunities for change, THRIVE is a framework and tool that can continue to help promote improvements across communities and thereby, promote health, safety and health equity.
Lisa Fujie Parks is a Program Manager at Prevention Institute in Oakland, CA.
Five years have passed since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and I continue to be inspired by the #GetCovered stories from across America. It is amazing to hear about men, women and young adults in this country who have been empowered—many for the first time—to take the reins and become more active partners in their health care and the health care of their families.
The third Open Enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace (Marketplace) is well underway, and the progress since the Affordable Care Act’s provisions took effect five years ago is extraordinary. Approximately 17.6 million Americans have gained coverage, which is the largest reduction of the uninsured on record, and the reductions are especially strong among racial and ethnic minority populations.
But there are about 10.5 million uninsured Americans who are eligible for coverage in the Marketplace, approximately one-third of whom are people of color, including 19 percent who are Hispanic, 14 percent who are African American, and 2 percent who are Asian American. We also know that 500,000 uninsured American Indians/Alaska Natives have the opportunity for coverage through the Marketplace. Making sure all eligible uninsured minorities have insurance coverage is the challenge before us. At the HHS Office of Minority Health, we are leveraging our resources to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live full and healthy lives through access to affordable, quality health care.
From town halls, conferences, and outreach and enrollment events to radio, print and social media, we are spreading the word to make sure those who are uninsured and eligible for Marketplace coverage visit HealthCare.gov to sign up for coverage during the current open enrollment period, which runs through January 31, 2016. And because you can’t predict when you or a loved one may be diagnosed with an illness or have an unforeseen accident, we encourage everyone to sign up for coverage by December 15, 2015, so that your insurance is effective starting January 1, just in time for the New Year. What better way to start 2016 than with the invaluable gift of health insurance coverage?
We also encourage people who signed up last year to come back to shop around in the event that there is a plan better suited for your needs and your budget—more than 7 in 10 returning Marketplace customers will be able to find coverage for $75 or less a month in premiums after tax credits. Picking a plan and signing up for coverage is easier this year, financial help is available to make coverage more affordable and free assistance is available to walk individuals through their options right in their own community at LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov.
Given the profound impact of persistent health disparities and preventable illnesses among minority populations—including cancers, heart disease, diabetes and more—the access to recommended preventive services with no co-pay or deductible provided by the Affordable Care Act improves the health of our communities and plays a crucial role in closing the gap on health disparities.
Not only is access to preventive services key to reducing health disparities, but so are the other ways in which the Affordable Care Act is touching the lives of people of color every day through increases in the number of health care providers in underserved communities; enhancements to the diversity and cultural competency of the health workforce; expansion of health disparities research; and improvements in data collection and reporting standards. The collective outcome of these advancements is moving us toward better health care and healthier people in our nation’s fastest growing communities.
Healthier minority communities translate to a healthier nation, and that’s a benefit to all Americans.
To learn more about your health insurance options, visit HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325) 24/7. Find free, confidential in-person assistance in your local area by visiting LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov.
To learn more about the HHS Office of Minority Health visit www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov.
J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).