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Ed. note: This was originally published on the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Blog.
Have you been making healthier choices over the past five years? #GimmeFive! Have you planted a garden, joined a dance class, eaten more fruits and vegetables? #GimmeFive! And, in the spirit of Let’s Move! – whether it’s pushups or recipes or hours spent on your health – can you #GimmeFive more?
As part of the fifth anniversary of Let’s Move!, the First Lady is encouraging Americans across the country to give out high-fives when they see someone making healthy choices. And she’s challenging everyone to #GimmeFive things they are doing to eat better, be more active, and lead a healthier life.
Are you ready to #GimmeFive?
Share what you’re doing to lead a healthier life on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Facebook, or Tumblr using #GimmeFive and then pass on the challenge to your family, friends, and followers!
Stay involved in the #GimmeFive challenge and the fifth anniversary activities by following us:
On Twitter: @LetsMove and @FLOTUS , the official Twitter account for the Office of the First Lady
On Instagram: @MichelleObama , the official Instagram account for the Office of the First Lady
On Facebook: facebook.com/letsmove
My parents are lucky. Even though they are in their early 60s, they don’t have any serious health problems. But at their stage in life, they know an accident or illness is a real possibility. Since my mother and father are both self-employed, they went to the Health Insurance Marketplace last year to find health plan options, and were able to get coverage that fits their needs. But like many newly insured Americans, they felt that making sense of their new coverage was difficult. From understanding insurance terms, to knowing when to go to a primary care physician or the emergency room, to reading a statement of benefits – it can all be overwhelming, even for those of us who have had insurance for a while.
While it’s important to have access to health care, it’s also important to fully understand and to be comfortable using health coverage. Enter From Coverage to Care. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched this unique initiative in 2014 to help consumers get the most out of their health insurance, and to increase use of preventive care among the newly insured. From Coverage to Care provides consumers a roadmap to guide them through locating a provider in network, setting up an appointment, knowing what questions to ask and what to do after the visit and more. The “Roadmap to a Healthier You” also helps users understand the value of preventive services. It features health management tools that the whole family can use, including a personal checklist for tracking important information such as screening results and vaccination records and an evaluation to help determine if the provider you selected is right for you. Additionally, From Coverage to Care also seeks to close communications gaps between patient and provider, and promote culturally and linguistically appropriate services to reduce health disparities and advance health equity.
Since 2013, the Affordable Care Act has made health insurance coverage more affordable and accessible, and millions across America – including many racial and ethnic minorities – have signed up for plans, paid their premiums and accessed quality coverage. This means many people are entering the health care system for the first time or gaining better coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act. It is critical that they know about preventive services offered to them at no cost and the importance of preventive care in staying healthy. As Dr. Cara James, director of the CMS Office of Minority Health, said “We need to make sure that people who are newly covered know that their coverage can help them stay healthy, not just help them get better if they get sick.”
From Coverage to Care is an invaluable resource to help my parents stay on the road to a long and healthy life. It makes scheduling an annual check-up and remembering what tests and shots they need each time much easier. It makes being prepared to discuss potential concerns with their providers easier. And it makes taking charge of their health easier.
It also means getting the most out of their care, and I’m glad they have that peace of mind.
Visit www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/mycoverage to learn more about the “Roadmap to a Healthier You” and get information about finding a health plan that fits your budget and needs. The Roadmap is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Haitian Creole.
Richard Washington is the Digital Media Specialist at the Office of Minority Health Resource Center.
Each year in the U.S., 1,500 babies are born with spina bifida, a birth defect caused by lack of folic acid in the mother’s diet. Spina bifida, like many other birth defects, can be prevented. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking a daily folic acid supplement prior to becoming pregnant and during pregnancy, which could prevent up to 70 percent of brain and spinal cord defects like spina bifida. This condition disproportionately affects children born to Hispanic women.
Throughout January – National Birth Defects Prevention Month – numerous efforts focused on raising awareness about the importance of preconception health in reducing birth defects. Through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, we are also working to increase awareness of the protections of the Affordable Care Act that promote healthy moms and babies; because we understand that raising a healthy child begins long before you first see your baby’s precious face.
The exact cause of spina bifida remains a mystery. According to the CDC, Hispanic women are up to three times more likely to have a child with spina bifida, and are less likely to consume folic acid before pregnancy or even know about the link between the nutrient and healthy brain and spinal cord development. Additionally, Hispanic women are less likely have health insurance or receive regular preventive care, both of which are linked to poorer health outcomes.
Greater access to health insurance and health care is crucial to reducing these and other disparities. Today, the Affordable Care Act is helping to deliver affordable, quality health care for millions of Americans, including minority and low-income women. The Hispanic population remains a key group for outreach efforts to learn more about health care coverage, as this continues community continues to have the highest uninsured rate, at 32.4 percent. Still, the percentage of uninsured Hispanics is down 6.3 points since the end of 2013.
The health care law has provided more affordable options for health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace and ensures that most health plans cover a number of important, free preventive services and screenings for women. Those preventive services include access to folic acid supplements for women who may become pregnant; support and counseling for breastfeeding; screenings for conditions that affect reproductive health like cervical cancer, obesity and diabetes; and annual well-woman visits.
For women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, a diet that includes 400 micrograms of folic acid daily and early prenatal care are critical steps to reducing risk of birth defects and increasing likelihood of having a healthy baby.
But even for women who are not planning a pregnancy, preconception health is still important. The Office of Minority Health’s Preconception Peer Educators (PPE) Program stresses this message to college-age women and men across the country, encouraging them to adopt healthy habits now to prepare for the future. Since 2007, the PPE program has trained more than 1,500 students at over 100 colleges and universities to serve as health educators on their campuses and in their communities.
Throughout the year — whether you are a provider, an advocate, a family member or a friend – it’s important to share the message about making healthy choices now with the women you know, and encourage those who don’t have health coverage to visit the Marketplace and learn about their options for affordable health care. Healthy babies begin with healthy parents, healthy families and healthy communities.
Joanna Blonska is the Senior Media Relations Specialist at the Office of Minority Health Resource Center.
Nothing is more important to us than our family. We cherish time together, every birthday party, holiday gathering and special celebration. And we shouldn’t let glaucoma make us lose sight of these deeply treasured traditions.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damages the eye’s optic nerve, which carries visual signals to the brain. It can lead to vision loss or blindness if left untreated. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of this disease. Quite often, by the time people are diagnosed with glaucoma they have already begun to notice changes in their side, or peripheral, vision. It’s important not to wait until we notice vision problems to see an eye care professional.
“Studies show that at least half of all persons with glaucoma don’t know they have this potentially blinding eye disease,” said National Eye Institute (NEI) director Dr. Paul Sieving. “The good news is that glaucoma can be detected in its early stages through a comprehensive dilated eye exam.”
While anyone can get glaucoma, people at higher risk for glaucoma include African Americans age 40 and older; everyone over age 60, especially Hispanics/Latinos; people with diabetes; and those with a family history of the disease.
A comprehensive dilated eye exam is a procedure in which an eye care professional places drops in your eyes to dilate (or widen) the pupil to examine the back of your eyes and your optic nerve for signs of disease. This quick and painless exam may help save your sight because when glaucoma is detected early, it can be controlled through medications or surgery.
Keep sight of precious family moments and keep vision in your future. Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam and encourage family members to do so as well. A low-cost exam may be available to you through Medicare. For more information, call 1–800–MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov.
For additional information about glaucoma, visit the National Eye Institute website or call NEI at 301–496–5248.
Ed. note: This was originally published on the AIDS.gov Blog.
February 7 marks the 15th year of the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day observance. This day is a call to action for communities across the country to come together to reduce the burden of HIV and AIDS in Black America.
We begin 2015 with hopeful signs that we, as a nation, are beginning to make real progress in the fight against HIV among blacks/African Americans. New data released today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report* show death rates among blacks with HIV are down 28% from 2008-2012, a greater decline than that reported for any other race/ethnicity. New data also show that blacks/African Americans are more likely than other races/ethnicities to get tested, 65% compared with 46% for Hispanics/Latinos and 41% for whites. Today too, 85 percent know their HIV status, similar to all Americans. This is good news, but the reality remains that blacks/African Americans are still disproportionately affected by HIV than any other race/ethnicity.
Almost half (44%) of all new infections are among blacks. And even though we are optimistic about a decline of 21 percent from 2008 to 2010 among black women, the rate of new HIV infections for this group remains 20 times as high as that of white women. As well, more than a third (41%) of people with HIV are black, and 51 percent of these are gay and bisexual men, with the epidemic growing at an alarming rate among young black gay and bisexual men. These numbers alone are concerning, but also troubling is that less than 50 percent of blacks with HIV are in care and only 28 percent have their virus under control with treatment.
A top priority for CDC is to help build coordination and the capacity to change these numbers so more blacks/African Americans get tested and receive the care and treatment needed. Some of our activities include:
It is a complex matrix that is driving the disproportionate impact of HIV in the black/African American community. Our response must match this complexity. I invite all of you to join our efforts to confront the myriad factors that hinder progress and engage in those that move us toward success. To achieve the goals of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy to reduce HIV incidence; increase access to care and optimize health outcomes for people living with HIV; and reduce HIV-related health disparities, we must be coordinated and act on every level, national, state, local, and individual. If we do this, we can achieve a future without AIDS.
*“Mortality among Blacks/Africans Americans Diagnosed with HIV, 2008–2012 – United States”; “HIV Testing and Service Delivery among African Americans in 61 Health Department Jurisdictions, 2013”
Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, is the Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).