April marks National Minority Health Month. It's an important time to shine the spotlight on health disparities in our country as well as to call attention to some exciting programs the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition is working on to make sure individuals and communities have the best possible access to sports activities and healthy foods.
Many Americans may not know that communities of color experience higher rates of certain health conditions like obesity, diabetes and heart disease than the rest of the population—this is called a health disparity.* As an Asian-American, this is something that is close to my heart since minorities often face health disparities due to language and cultural barriers.
When I was growing up I was fortunate to have access to safe parks and recreation centers that allowed me to be involved in a variety of sports and daily physical activity. Through my parents I also learned the importance of healthy eating. Fresh, healthy foods were always available. Sadly, many children today do not have these opportunities.
At the President's Council, we are fortunate to work closely with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic sweeping across our nation. Through programs such as Let's Move! Cities, Towns and Counties; Chefs Move to Schools ; Let's Move Faith and Communities ; and Let's Move Salad Bars 2 Schools, our nation is tackling the childhood obesity epidemic head on by identifying gaps and disparities, working to find solutions and providing resources that are easily accessible to everyone.
Most recently, the First Lady launched Let's Move! Active Schools to increase physical activity opportunities for America's youth throughout the school day. Make sure your school is signed up today! The President's Council serves as the federal government lead for Let's Move! Active Schools – so please send us any ideas about what more we can do in your community.
The time is now to eliminate health disparities and work toward a healthier nation. We all have a role to play in creating an environment where physical activity and nutritious food options are available to all Americans. I am confident that we will get there!
*For information about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, visit: http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/actnow/.
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Michelle Kwan, member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, is the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history. She has earned numerous awards and honors, including: 2003 U.S. Olympic Committee SportsWoman of the Year, 2001 Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in America, and 1998 Sportswoman of the Year by the Women's Sports Foundation. Michelle currently serves as a Public Diplomacy Envoy for the U.S. State Department, on the Board of Directors of Special Olympics International, and the State Department’s Council to Empower Women and Girls Through Sports. She is presently employed by the State Department as a senior adviser for public diplomacy and public affairs.