The Color of Health
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The Color of Health

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Shannon Reed Jr. (left) practicing yoga with his father, Shannon Reed, United Way's director of innovative strategies for Boys & Men of Color

June 8, 2018

Written by Shannon Reed Jr., United Way volunteer blogger

With bills being due, babies crying, work deadlines, and all the other hurdles we constantly overcome in life, health sometime can feel like a burden rather than the beautiful opportunity to nurture ourselves. We must understand health has a direct correlation, not only to the impact that we have on others but also as the basis of where we pull our energy from to pursue our goals.

Men of color are charting as one of the most endangered human races in existence. I would like to highlight the many ways we can overcome the health issues that have become so prevalent within our culture.

African American ages 18-49 are two times more likely to die from heart diseases than white men of the same age (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The most common causes of cardiovascular disease are unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight, and smoking. These unhealthy lifestyle choices result from habits that we, as men of color, have often been subliminally taught as socially acceptable. Undergoing the many stresses of life we tend to revert back to unhealthy food and lifestyle choices, missing the opportunity to replenish ourselves and boost our attention span and energy.

In addition to heart disease, one of the leading epidemics killing our society and more specifically us as a culture, African American’s hold the largest death rate from high blood pressure and diabetes.

The first question that we should ask when thinking about how to fight this cultural epidemic is: where do we start? First, we must educate both the youth and the generations preceding us. It’s up to us to provide them with the proper tools, knowledge, and food that will foster and allow them to create the essential pathway towards the greatest evolution of man.

Second, we must be willing to spend the extra dollar to invest in our own health. Health is wealth. I understand paying those extra two or three dollars on fresh, organic produce can feel like a big cost, especially for a full family with over two or three children. This is where we must combine health education and financial literacy, teaching our neighbors and family how to budget and even grow their own produce. Growing your own food is not only cost efficient but it also enlightens us on the growth, development, and importance of knowing what we are putting in our bodies. This instills great family oriented skills in children and brings about great memories as well.

Last but not least, when you gain a conscious understanding about the foods you eat you start to invest in your health and foster an internal love unlike any other. You begin to respect your body as the temple it is.

Moving forward towards a healthier lifestyle takes one step at a time. Try to change one unhealthy habit every week and slowly but surely you will flourish. No longer will we stand by and let ignorance kill us off and continue to make these unstable dietary and lifestyle choices. We as the African American community and men of color must strive to progress in our health and in our lives to demonstrate the incredible respect we have for ourselves.

The time for change is now! United Way partners with local organizations on healthy living events such as the Milwaukee Men’s Health Summit where men of our community can receive free health inspections and explore healthier lifestyle alternatives (June 16th, 10am-4pm at YMCA Parklawn Branch). Call (414) 353-9015 or (414) 856-5383 for more information.

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