How COVID-19 Affects the Health of Black Girls and Women

Glaring disparities in health conditions and outcomes for women of color have been widely documented. This population is disproportionately affected by chronic diseases and conditions, including:

Heart Disease

Black women are more likely to develop heart disease – the #1 killer in the United States. According to an article entitled, “The Heart Truth for Women” from the Department for Health and Human Services states, “For African American women, the risk of heart disease is especially great. Heart disease is more prevalent among black women than white women—as are some of the factors that increase the risk of developing it, including high blood pressure, overweight and obesity, and diabetes.”

Diabetes

African-Americans with type 2 diabetes have been shown to present with more severe features, including increased obesity, dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia, and vascular disease. Scientists have published research articulating, “they also are more likely to experience fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events related to diabetes” Specific to women, gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is the most common complication of pregnancy and is associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Racial/ethnic minority populations (like black women) are at a higher risk than non-Hispanic white populations of developing type 2 diabetes after GDM.

Reproductive Disorders

Studies from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology show that “fibroids occur more often in African American women than in white women. They also seem to occur at a younger age and grow more quickly in African American women.” And in the words of a study entitled, “Racial Influence on the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Phenotype,” “race has been shown to influence the PCOS phenotype”

Childbirth Complicat

Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. The CDC points out that while most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related deaths have persisted over time.

A unique sociological factor is the uneasy relationship that many black women have with health providers. A 2018 study notes how “the legacy of medical experimentation and inadequate healthcare coupled with social determinants has exacerbated African American women’s complex relationship with healthcare systems.”3

So how does this play into Covid-19?

The impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated by underlying health conditions, immune system inhibitors, and other hindrances of health and wellness. These elements are already uniquely prevalent for women of color, providing fertile ground for the devastation of COVID-19 to take root. Let’s briefly examine areas where this pandemic and adjusted lifestyles impose greater risks for women of color.

Nutrition/Lifestyle

  1. Covid-19 infection and death have taken an especially heavy toll on communities of color. Mental health is impacted by the stress of one’s own infection or that of a loved one. Science shows that when mental health is affected other parts of health are also affected. This often leads to women making poor nutrition choices which further exacerbate underlying medical conditions or weaken the immune system. For example, sweet/sugary desserts or snacks or fried comfort foods are often go-to’s during times of stress and boredom. However, research shows that refined processed foods and sugar weaken the immune system, triggering inflammatory pathways in the body.
  2. Weight gain can result from excess snacking due to stress, anxiety, and depression. Exercise routines may have been disrupted, making matters worse. The impact of weight gain may be more pronounced for black girls and women. Being overweight increases the risk factors for issues that black women are already more susceptible to, including infertility, hormonal issues, gestational diabetes, difficult delivery, and difficult post-partum recovery.
  3. Increased blood pressure raises the risk of diabetes, heart disease, preeclampsia etc. What causes increased blood pressure? A combination of many lifestyle factors, including lack of sleep, untreated stressed, sedentary lifestyle, dietary insults such as heavy consumption of processed, convenient or takeout/dine out food in combination with lack of fruits and vegetables – all prevalent during the pandemic.
  4. Staying home can mean isolation and feelings of loneliness and boredom, driving increased alcohol consumption. This increases blood pressure and risk of heart disease, while also negatively impacting reproductive health.

A Danish cohort study found that, “compared with women who drank no alcohol, women who reported consuming 1–5 drinks per week, in addition to those who consumed more than 10 drinks per week, had a decreased chance of achieving a clinical pregnancy.” Furthermore, studies in humans and animal models have found alterations in ovulation and menstrual cycle regularity with chronic/prolonged alcohol intake” In addition, “Heavy alcohol use may diminish ovarian reserve and fecundability in women.” (Alcohol and Fertility: How much is too much).

Chronic Home Stress

Stress is known to be a significant factor in health, wellness, and quality of life. In addition to common stressors that have uniquely plagued black girls and women, there is also the new reality of crafting an adjusted home life, particularly with children.

Chronic stress leads to illnesses. More specifically, studies have shown that “chronic stress has a significant effect on the immune system that ultimately manifest an illness” It suppresses the immune system, raising the risk of viral infection. It also increases risk for diabetes, ulcers, and clogged arteries.

  1. Home-schooling or managing children who are normally outside of the home is difficult. Some women say they feel they must choose between careers and their children, even more so now than before. Managing a child’s day, preparing meals, and tending to the house while still making time for a career, oneself and a spouse is tricky. Some things just won’t get done, which in itself can be an additional stressor.
  2. Having to utilize child-care options outside of the home also adds stress. The potential exposure of a child to Covid-19, the possibility of sickness to follow, family spread, and quarantine can weigh heavily on the psyche.

Preventive Care

Preventive care has been shown to greatly reduce health risks for women and is already often overlooked or not readily available for black women and girls.

  1. As Covid-19 surged in some areas, some health centers could not safely accommodate needs of every patient. Some women lacked the ability or willingness to get routine 1:1 visits. Dental cleaning, ObGyn annuals and routine blood work are neglected by some women because of the risk of exposure to Covid-19. We know that routine health & wellness visits are vital for preventing the diseases for which black women are already at risk (fibroids, PCOS, diabetes, gestational diabetes, heart disease).
  2. During Covid-19 many hospitals are decreasing length of stay after delivery of a baby, impacting continued care, such as breastfeeding support. Lactation consultation is usually given soon after birth to support mothers’ breastfeeding needs but with Covid-19, follow ups are done virtually. Black babies die at two times the rate of white babies. Breast feeding decreases this mortality rate by 50%. The Academy of Pediatrics supports one-on-one breast feeding even if mothers have Covid-19. Shorter hospital stays make this harder.

What Can You Do Right Now?

  1. Keep a variety of antioxidant rich foods in the house, aka, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Remember to refrigerate and freeze appropriate foods to stretch its shelf life naturally. Make more meals at home. Sign up for cooking classes or work with a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you create healthy desserts or comfort foods that won’t sacrifice taste or tons of time. For information on this topic including plant-based menus, meal prepping, cooking, storing, freezing to optimize your health based on your lifecycle needs contact 360GirlsandWomen.com
  2. Keep active indoors by taking breaks to stretch, going up and down stairs, running around the house or playing musical chairs with your kids. Join an online platform to engage in workouts. For personalization, contact a certified trainer women’s specialist to create an exercise plan with a bonus accountability partner or coach. This is something offered by many companies including 360GirlsandWomen.com
  3. Practice self-care. Go to bed earlier. Spend time in silence and prayer. Spend time in nature -fresh air and sunlight are therapy. Start a garden (indoor or outdoor). You may find it’s a great way to relax and take a break from the day, and it also provides fresh food.
  4. Eliminate alcohol and other unhealthy behaviors/lifestyles. If you need help join a support group like Alcoholic Anonymous -aaa.org. Get counseling (social workers, mental health counselors, pastors) or join professional support systems as needed.
  5. Advocate for yourself at doctor’s visits, write down questions. Ask for a copy of labs, images, or records. Follow up and get second opinions when needed. Make sure a family member or friend is also following up and checking in on you before and after medical visits.

Remember that regardless of circumstances, black girls and women should continue striving to implement best practices that achieve the best health outcomes.




Cookin’ Up Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who sacrificed their life for our freedoms and comforts. As we all know, many of us enjoy getting together with friends and family on this day to celebrate. Had COVID-19 locked us all in our homes, many of us would be with friends and family grilling our favorites. The truth is, much of what we grill isn’t the healthiest for us.

What if I told you that you could enjoy grilling amazing food? Or, what if I said you could grill everything from vegetables to fruit and it taste amazing? Better yet, what if your Memorial Day grill menu didn’t have to have any meat on it? Would you believe me?

Check out the video below to learn how to grill an amazing Memorial Day feast using absolutely no meat!




Black Does Crack

The Impact of Race-Based Stress on Black Bodies

I was hosting a Black student discussion when an attendee shared this statement:

“My generation is being raised in a time when we are seeing people who look like us killed all over social media…it will traumatize our minds.”

Discussing the brutal and unjust murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery by Gregory and Travis McMichael, it took little to no time for the conversation to shift to the weight of race-based trauma on the black millennial mind. Similarly, watching the murders of Sean Reed and Philando Castile on Facebook Live, along with clips of Korryn Gaines and Alton Sterling’s deaths, has produced excessive black trauma. Presenting at the Center for Global Humanities, Dr. Françoise Hamlin, Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies at Brown University, says, “with cell phones and body cameras we see [black] people die everyday…we are all witnesses. And every death cuts deep as though one of our own kin had perished.” She further suggests that in spite of such a national, and even global viewing of state sanctioned violence, there is a denial of black trauma.

Black Trauma

A denial of the psychological impact of racism on black people is a practice that has gone on for centuries. In fact, the long term dehumanization of black bodies has cemented a narrative of inferiority, unworthiness, and shame. Such trauma is why black people’s intrinsic humanity and the concept of mattering is a notion that has never been extended to black people.

This history of abuse, exploitation, and murder leaves many asking, “Where do black persons with deep-rooted historical experiences of trauma, discrimination and oppression take their pain?” This denial of black trauma within society at large has spread to the mental health field perpetuating the belief that black people’s humanity, emotions, physical and mental distress does not matter.

Racial Trauma

Much of black trauma is directly linked to racial trauma or race-based stress. According to the American Counseling Association, “racial trauma or race-based stress comes from dealing with racial harassment, racial violence, or institutional racism.” Such experiences carry negative psychological, emotional and an overall mental impact on the parties experiencing the violence or discrimination.

MARK HILL/HBO

This legacy of trauma reached it zenith last year, as August 2019 marked the 400th anniversary of the selling of African people on American soil. Black Americans painstakingly recalled how they were captured and carried into indentured servitude and ultimately chattel slavery. They remembered how this strange land forced upon them segregation and Jim Crow laws. But this troubling anniversary also forced an entire nation to reckon with how America maintains its dehumanizing dominance over black bodies through mass incarceration, redlining, poor economic infrastructure, educational inequities, voter suppression, political exploitation, and race-based police violence. The on-going narrative of racial trauma against black people in this country causes them to daily face the harsh reality of learning how to be black, but still live, cope and function.

Weathering and Black Mental Health

This is a difficult and daunting task for many black Americans. Dr. Arline T. Geronimus, seeing the mental and physical toll racism was having on black bodies and black minds, thus coined the term “weathering” to describe it. Studies like hers and others have shown that race-based stress over time causes black people to have shorter lifespans, their bodies display the wear and tear compared to that of white persons up to ten years older, and they report higher levels of psychological distress. In fact, research shows that blacks have twenty percent higher levels of mental health problems when compared to white individuals, but access treatment at much lower rates.

Unfortunately, the ongoing stigmatization of mental health in black communities aids in preventing many of them from seeking the mental healthcare they need. Furthermore, it stifles mental healthcare workers from properly exploring, assessing, and treating the very specific mental health needs of black people. But the research we do have is clear. The impact of living in a racist society has led to heightened anxiety, stress, hyper-vigilance, depression, and on occasion suicidality. In fact, the allostatic load of racial trauma increases black people’s predisposition for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, cardiovascular issues, and other concerning medical conditions. Furthermore, stress generally, and race-based stress in particular, impacts the immune system. In other words, black bodies continue to exist in social spaces that are undoubtedly leading to a faster death. In short, racism is killing us.

Black Women and Police Violence

And while black mothers mourn the death of their husbands and sons, we must remember that race-based violence does not see gender. State sanctioned violence is taking the lives of black women and girls as well. In fact, before we could reconcile our anger, fear, and distress regarding Ahmaud Arbery’s murder, before we could untie our laces after joining in the #IRunWithAhmaud campaign, blacks faced yet another killing. This time, a black woman died at the hands of police. On March 13, 2020, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was fast asleep in the comfort of her home. Just before 1am she was slain with a minimum of eight bullets during a misplaced police drug-raid. The general public has since learned that not only had the police been dispatched to the wrong home, but the suspect police were seeking was apprehended only one day earlier.

This is no anomaly. Black people across this country can identify the names of many others whose lives were prematurely lost within the last few months. As we say their names and share their stories, we are faced with the reality that black people never get a chance to fully recover. Oftentimes, immediately after hearing of one death we are thrown into the woes of another racially motivated killing. In fact, according to Mapping Police Violence, black people are three times more likely to be killed by the police and comprise approximately twenty four percent of police killings, while making up only approximately thirteen percent of the population.

The Cage of Black Trauma

An exploration of racial disparities in the criminal justice system during Covid-19 has shown that, in New York City alone, more than eighty percent of those issued social distancing summons and arrests were people of color in comparison to those handed out by the same police department to whites. Our minds and bodies never experience restoration, rejuvenation, or reprise; even during a global pandemic.

Black trauma is the cage in which we live daily due to white supremacy, privilege, and systemic racism. We have to raise our voices so that black people have a chance at the quality of life all humans deserve.

On May 7, 2020 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) launched the #WeAreDoneDying campaign in an effort to continue the fight for social and racial justice. Society may never acknowledge or validate the racial trauma of black people, but it does not mean we cannot do so ourselves. Black people must create spaces for themselves, and those within their communities, to name and process racial trauma. We must be proactive about saving black lives.

Solutions to Save our Communities

Black churches and organizations are essential to the mental healing of black people. For example, black churches can partner with faith-based and non-faith-based organizations to hold support groups for community members. These groups can help community members to find camaraderie within their struggle, while teaching them the skills they need to cope during moments of hopelessness. In addition, black mental healthcare workers must take responsibility for including the realities of race-based stress in their clinical treatment of black people. We must begin to affirm the traumatic imprint of racialized trauma on a person’s overall health. Furthermore, black clergy must utilize the pulpit to speak hope, life and power while calling congregants to action. Clergy should deliver messages like the one Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III delivered on May 17, 2020 as a requiem for Ahmaud Arbery.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6985UG0Z3k

Addressing the structural system of racial trauma is not only a social justice issue, but a public health concern, and we must all do our part. History tells us that our ancestors, particularly the medical practitioners of ancient Egypt, when exploring mental health, encouraged people to dance, sing, and lean on music to relieve stress. In other words, music has always been the soundtrack to the black struggle. The caged bird has always sung. However, I encourage us all to not only sing, but speak, process, advocate, and heal.




A Mother’s Plea for Autism Awareness

Autism Spectrum Disorder entered my life 6 years ago.

My youngest son, Kenden Andrew was diagnosed at the age of 2. Immediately, I started learning about his disability. I learned Autism is a complex developmental disorder. Some of the challenges of Autism are seen in communication, social skills, and behavior. All three affect Kenden. I also discovered no one person is the same. The most important thing I can share about Autism, is each person is unique. I like to see it as, God blessed each and every one of them with their own special superpower.

The truth is there is no one definitive cause for Autism. According to Autism Speaks, “Research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic and non-genetic, or environmental, influences.” While some wonder if complications during pregnancy are a factor, during my pregnancy I had no complications. In fact, I knew the exact date that I would be having Kenden. My doctor scheduled me for a c-section due to my previous one with my first son, Jaylan. Everything went as planned. I stayed in the hospital for a couple of days and then was discharged home.

The first night home alone was extremely hard. I will never forget it! Both boys were fed and bathed for the night. I put Jaylan to bed first and then tended to my new baby boy.

I just knew this night would go smooth but…it didn’t.

For the life of me I couldn’t get my baby to sleep. Nothing seemed to work. He was clean, fed, and sleepy but just refused to sleep. That night I felt defeated. I kept saying to myself something isn’t right, but would immediately tell myself to erase that thought from my mind. I felt it was wrong to compare my two children. My baby experience with my older son was smooth sailing. But things were different with Kenden. Soon, months led to years of no sleep, uncontrollable behaviors, and no verbal communication from Kenden.

At the age of one, Kenden was accepted into the Tennessee Early Intervention Program. This program assisted us with resources to help Kenden. Most importantly, they setup Speech and Occupational Therapy for him. At that time, he had therapy twice a week. Also, they helped with placing him into a Special Education Pre- Kindergarten Program. By the age of three, Kenden was going to school three days a week. I believe early intervention has been one of the reasons for his continued success.

There is Hope in Progress

Kenden is now 8 years old. He has made great strides with his communication, social skills, and behavior. About 3 years ago Kenden finally started saying words. He is still in Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy once a week. Not only has early intervention been a great attribute to his success but I’m so thankful for my church family. I attend Ephesus SDA Church in Clarksville, TN. Sometimes I still struggle with taking Kenden out in the community because I worry about his behavior and the reaction of others. People tend to forget a disability isn’t always visible.

But outside of our home and family, Church has really been the only place I feel comfortable. At Ephesus I don’t have to worry about people’s reaction. Kenden sometimes makes quirky noises and talks loud during service but no one is ever bothered. I love that no one turns their head or gives weird and mean stares at us. Service is never interrupted, and I love it! Kenden is definitely a part of the congregation and they love him. I appreciate their kindness and acceptance of him.

Church Engagement with Autism

It is for this reason that I believe churches are critical for Autism families. One way they can be helpful and inviting to the Autism Community is to talk about Autism. Educate yourself and bring in professionals to train and discuss this disorder with your congregation. Unfortunately, I have found that church tends to brush off or not discuss hard topics. It is oftentimes much easier to bury our heads in the sand and tell others, “I’m praying for you.” But when you are raising a child with a developmental disability the time and energy you have to pour into them is indescribable. Oftentimes, you feel alone and misunderstood. Church should be a place you know you won’t be judged about your child’s meltdowns or have your parenting questioned. It should be a place of peace, understanding, and acceptance.

1 out of 54 children are diagnosed with Autism.

The time is now to put old traditions and usual clichés aside and be about action.

Being a special needs parent, I am always researching and looking for resources and grants. What has been the most helpful is staying connected to my local Autism foundation and programs, my local government and state websites, and any Autism websites such as Autism Speaks. I have had lots of success with these resources. In addition, each year I apply for the Family Support Program funded by my local state. This program is specifically for individuals with disabilities and their family. The program covers a variety of services. It does not take the place of social security benefits, Medicaid, state wavier programs, or private insurance. But it is another resource that helps the individual with the disability to stay at home with their family and community. Also, I stay connected with Kenden’s teachers and therapist. They have been very helpful assisting me with navigating resources for him.

This statement might come as a shock to you. But Autism has been the answer to my prayers. All of the questions I had about Kenden, were finally answered. Autism was the foundation that helped me and Kenden build our bond. I have a clearer understanding of him and I can now effectively parent him.

I believe it’s vital for communities to learn about Autism. The more aware and accepting we become, the more influential we can be to individuals and families with disabilities and disorders like Autism.




How a CEO Implemented a Wellness Program Within His Company

I am not one of those health freaks that insists on everything being organic, free range, cage free, bottled, and non-GMO. Nor do I spend 30+ minutes at the gym seven days a week working on my physique. I’m just a regular guy who like many of you, woke up one day and decided it was time to be a little bit more healthy and fit.

I guess it’s only fair that I tell you that I’ve never been in horrible shape. I’m a tall thin man that at my worst weight was at most between 20-25 pounds overweight – at which point my health care physician called me “border line obese.”  I’m also competitive to a fault. I love to play competitive sports like basketball, softball, and golf. Yes, I have found a way to make golf competitive and therefore keep my attention. I’m also a very frugal business owner.

Every year I’m the one that analyzes our company’s health care costs and makes a decision on which provider to use so that our costs don’t skyrocket. All of these factors led me to start a wellness program at my company. Because of the interest level, not only from my employees but from outsiders as well, I’ve decided to write about our experience and hopefully inspire someone else to take this journey to better health with us.

A Seed Planted

A couple years ago a company approached me offering to implement a wellness program for us. Of course, they presented a well thought out program that offered the employees an amazing experience for wellness growth with prizes, point structures, website metrics and so much more. We considered it for about two minutes. The problem was that I knew everyone wasn’t going to participate.

People buy gym memberships promising themselves they are going to “get their money’s worth” and after a month or two they barely go anymore.  I’m frugal…ok you can call me cheap. So paying for a program that had a per employee cost was not ideal. But the seed was planted. Making it still a good idea to help our employees with their wellness goals.

Implementing a Corporate Wellness Benefits Package

Fast forward to the end of 2019. Me and my business partners are doing year end financials and our budget for the next year. I suggest that a new benefit we can offer our employees should be a wellness benefits package. I even offered to help implement it. We will pay our employees to get healthy which in turn should decrease our health care costs. For a frugal guy this is awesome.

The engineer in me insists that running this should be a piece of cake. I’ll just come up with 12 monthly wellness challenges, that can be self-monitored on the honor system and we will offer $50 each month to every employee that successfully meets the challenge. So no wasted expenses. Because it’s all about wellness, we will focus on nutrition, exercise, and meditation for our various challenges. To make sure that we are seeing progress, we started the year by providing each employee an InBody assessment to baseline several personal statistics such as weight, BMI, and a bunch of other stuff that you need a personal trainer certification to understand. We will take these assessments at six month intervals to track progress.

A Competition with Mr. Competitive

My wife has helped me to be healthier both by example and by nagging verbal impression. I’ve had to watch documentaries on Monsanto and Netflix series like “What the Health.” At home we eat mostly a vegetarian diet with some fish from time to time. She also follows health gurus like the late Dr. Sebi and believes in holistic medicine over synthetic. About a year ago, she finally impressed upon me the value of drinking lots of water. Dare I say, she challenged me! Now it’s on. You just created a competition with Mr. Competitive.

I started drinking water every day. Not nearly the recommended amount for my size/weight but a new habit was forming. 25 ounces a day turned to 40 ounces a day. Soon I was up to 64 ounces a day (the amount that some research says should be your daily allotment). I can’t say that I was successful everyday, but I was doing something that I never did before. I was drinking water regularly. And I was seeing results.

My energy level went up. My allergy symptoms went down. And I developed a taste for water. This last one is huge because I grew up in the 70’s on Kool Aid and Tang. The thought of drinking water when thirsty was like yuck. Give me the Rock-a-dile Red and we can call it a day. But once I started consciously and deliberately drinking more water, I actually got to the point where I craved water.

The Water Challenge

So I drank less sugary drinks and started simply drinking water. And just when I thought I was doing a great job, a health practitioner at my church rocked my boat. They told me that I should actually drink half my weight in ounces of water everyday.  Now that’s a lot of water. I’ll drown if I try to drink that much water in one day. And then have to do it over and over and over again. Not me! Unless of course someone says “I challenge you to drink half your weight in ounces of water every day.” Man! “That was tricky.”  “You shouldn’t have said that.”  “You just wait!” Oh! Sorry, I was channeling my inner Robert De Niro.

Back to the wellness challenges. Since I personally had seen the advantages of drinking water, and it seemed like a relatively easy thing to do (all my employees have access to water) and to track, the first three challenges would all be about drinking water. I remember my journey of not drinking water everyday to attempting to drink half my weight in ounces of water everyday. It definitely wasn’t a wake up one morning and decide I’m going to start drinking 100 ounces of water today and every day from now on. No problem. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Not!

Getting Organized

So in order to help folks who may also not drink water everyday, I decided that the first challenge would be to create a new habit – drinking some water every day. I know most folks are inherently lazy so I created a spreadsheet. The sheet has tabs for January, February, and March. Each tab has a calendar that represents all the days of that month. At the top of the spreadsheet is a cell for your name, one for your weight, and one that calculates how much water you need to drink daily to meet the challenge.

To make it easy, January’s target was 1/3 of your personal daily target based on half your weight in ounces.  For February the target was 2/3 of your personal target and March was the full amount. The spreadsheet also has several summation calculations so you can see how many total ounces you drink for the month as well as totals per day and per week. For the corporate challenge we paid $50/month to those that met and/or exceeded the total while meeting the daily minimums at least 25 days (23 for Feb).

When January completed, about 40% of our company actually participated and achieved their January water consumption goal. One person actually told me, “this is too easy.”  Of course he only weighed about 150 pounds and therefore only needed to drink 25 ounces a day to meet his January goal. I assured him that he didn’t have to limit himself to the January target and he just laughed.

The Benefit of New Habits

My goal was being met – a new habit of consciously drinking water daily was forming and without major push-back 40% of our employees started a new journey towards healthier living. Another employee said that he lost 9 pounds just two weeks into the water consumption challenge. Strategies started being shared among employees and they were using the 25 ounce water bottles we distributed with our company logo on it. That’s what I call a win, win.

I hope to start nutrition and exercise challenges for April and beyond. I even plan to have a month where we have several different goals in one month. Would love to hear from other health practitioners about other challenge ideas that we could implement, and I plan to continue to write about all of our successes. Think about it, how can your family or company implement wellness challenges?




The Thinking Man’s Vegan

Behind the marketing, the untold impact of animal products menaces communities of color.

 

Vegetarians and plant-based eaters bite off a little more respect these days. Overall, vegetarians make up 3% and vegans only 2% of the United States population. However, being plant-based is increasingly more popular with African Americans and other people of color who chuck the chicken at three times the rate of their white counterparts (Gallup.com; Pew Research “The New Food Fights: US Public Divides Over Food Science”).

It helps that a star-studded A-list of African Americans claim the lifestyle. Status or not, Americans have suddenly and drastically cut their consumption of dairy products, cheese in particular, from an average of 35 pounds a year, to 15 pounds a year leaving an industry that is already propped up by massive government subsidies to survive, even while consumer demand plummets (“What Will the Government Do With 1.4 Billion Pounds of Cheese?” PSMag.com).

Other antiquated policies masquerading as dietary standards continue to push meat and dairy on the unsuspecting. Therefore, milk, cheese, and meat are still very much part of the diet given to low-income individuals, school lunch programs, and food pantry programs.

The Health Evangelist

Enter Milton Mills, a Stanford University Medical School graduate who did his residency at Georgetown.

As an Internist and specialist in preventive medicine, Mills is an evangelist of good health. You can watch him dish on YouTube with a comparative analysis of all God’s creatures, and what it means to be a natural carnivore (meat-eater), herbivore (plant-eater), or omnivore (eats both meat and plants). Watch him confront members of a dietary recommendation panel where he skewers the idea that anyone needs to consume dairy for good health. You may have also watched Mills in the 2017 viral documentary “What the Health?”

The clapback from those whose dietary recommendations include dairy is very strong. (“What You Should Know About the Pro Vegan Film, ‘What The Health?’” Time.com) Read and think between the lines, Mills insists. A majority of Americans of color experience symptoms of illness when consuming dairy products, yet, the recommendations to drink milk, for it “does a body good,” persist.

Government recommendations persist, partially because of the idea that dairy calcium and protein prevent osteoporosis in women. Black women, however, are “genetically protected” from osteoporosis, and unless they have another disease that leaches calcium from the bones, black women don’t get it.

Further, there is more at stake than symptoms of “mild discomfort” from eating dairy. Ingesting hormone-rich milk increases the risk for hormone-related cancers. Consuming dairy products markedly increases the risk for breast cancer among African American women, and worse than that, the mortality rates are higher.

For black men consuming animal products is the number one risk factor for prostate cancer. The rates of prostate cancer are 60% higher among black men, and once it occurs, black men are twice as likely to die from it. It’s a much more malignant form of the disease.

The Creation Diet

Mills believes it was God who taught him, from an early age, through the most trying of circumstances. Growing up in a Pentecostal Christian home, Mills’ family prayed at meal times and attended church regularly, however, his journey into the Word didn’t occur until the relatively happy family broke apart. Upon his parents’ divorce, 13 year-old Mills approached his pain very methodically:

“My response was like, wow. Is life going to be this random series of unknowable, unavoidable painful events? Or, is there some way to navigate through life and minimize these painful occurrences? The first thing I needed to figure out was, was God real? If God was not real, then I didn’t want to waste my time in a useless round of religiosity and ceremonies if He wasn’t. But, the opposite was equally true, that if He is real, then it’s absurd to try to live your life without acknowledging Him and making Him a part of it.”

God’s voice penetrated Mills heart early. When as a young man he prayed for a resolution to personal struggle, he was thus impressed that a plant-based lifestyle would clear his mind, and his ability to perceive God’s leading.

Subsequently, three truths sprung from the pages of his Bible when young Mills began to read it: 1. God created the world, and did it in seven days. 2. On the seventh day—the Sabbath—He rested. 3. God gave His first people plants to eat.

Knowing God became the ultimate intellectual experience, and the spiritual activation that caused Mills to be the strident seeker and proponent of truth. It propelled him to seek a medical career.

“If I weren’t a doctor, then my whole life, when I told people ‘you need to stop eating meat,’ they would say, “You can’t tell me that. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Mills aced his prerequisites for medical school while working nights and attending the former California State University Hayward (now California State University East Bay). He became the first Cal State Hayward student accepted into Stanford Medical School. From then on, he researched, taught and refined his case against the consumption of animal products.

Dietary Myth: Animal Products Are Good for You

“We have been taught that animal tissue is healthy and necessary for human health. Nothing can be further from the truth,” Mills declared during a recent interview with Message.

“Animal tissue is completely unnecessary for human health, and is unhealthy.”

Before you call the beef lobby to report him, Mills asks a few observational thought questions. First, why are milk and dairy products— even in limited quantities or moderation—a dietary recommendation when so many people are lactose intolerant? Lactose is a carbohydrate naturally found in dairy products, and it causes discomfort in the form of bloating, diarrhea, and cramps for people who are lactose intolerant.

As many as 90% of West Africans and and 75% of African Americans are lactose intolerant. Even 30% of Caucasians are lactose intolerant. Why is a substance that makes people sick a dietary recommendation?

Second, as you think about the massive plant eating animals such as giraffes, rhinos, and elephants, when do they ever consume animal products? The answer is: when they are babies and are nursing. The proteins found in mother’s milk stimulate growth. For us, however, consuming growth stimulants when full grown does not stimulate growth in ways we may want, Mills said. The result is growth, alright, but in benign lipomas, moles, cysts, enlarged prostates, and uterine fibroids. Sometimes, those growths become cancerous.

Third—speaking of growth, how do they get the chickens that we eat to grow so rapidly? People who grew up near a farm knew that “spring chickens” hatch and then grow throughout the year.

“Now these ‘Franken-birds’ that they have, hatch and go from egg to adult weight in like, six, eight weeks,” said Mills. “You just have to imagine the kinds of growth stimulants that have to be in that animal’s tissues to make it grow like that. It’s like a child going from birth to a 200 pound adult in two to three years. It’s completely abnormal. And, if you’re ingesting these kinds of growth compounds into your body, it’s no wonder it driving cancer in so many places.”

Dietary Myth Corollary: There’s no carve out.

That leads to the second myth surrounding the consumption of animal products: “We think going to Popeyes, Chick Fil-A, and Burger King—thinking that because we’re eating chicken and fish—it is somehow healthier.” One need only to examine the processing environment and habitat of the animal products we consume to learn why disease is no respecter of animals.

Mills: “Imagine if you had to only eat the lungs of an animal. Would you eat the lungs of an animal raised in a coal mine? Of course not because of the dirt, filth, soot that the lungs have to process there. Well, think about the way fish breathe. Through their gills they filter water; and the oceans are the most polluted places on the planet; fish is the most toxin-laden tissue that you can consume. So, no, you shouldn’t be eating fish, and definitely not shellfish.”

Mills minces no words when it comes to the seafood lover’s platter at many a favorite restaurant. Shellfish are the filters of the waterways. “That’s their job. I mean lobster, shrimp, they’re just ocean-going roaches. [If] you emulsify raw sewage and flow it over a bed of oysters and clams, the water will come out clear, because what they do is they eat that particulate matter.”

It’s a beautiful thing. God made them that way; He didn’t intend for us to eat them.

Live Long and Be Meat Free

For the thinking man’s vegan, the health evangelist Mills, has one important secret of disease prevention: a plant-based diet. Anything else, is a loss physically and spiritually.

“We are being shortchanged by being robbed of our health by primary or secondary intention. It also upsets me when we do it to ourselves. Because we’re throwing away our birthright for a bunch of garbage.”




A Plea for African Americans to Be Made Well

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on the families of America. But, as someone once said, “When America gets a cold, black folk get pneumonia.” And, literally, that is what is happening.

As reports of deaths due to COVID-19 are increasing, we are also learning a frightening reality. The truth is, this pandemic is immensely affecting African Americans turning many of our communities upside down. According to local and state reporting, African Americans represent just 32% of the population in Louisiana, but are over 70% of the deaths. In Chicago, we are 29% of the population and over 70% of the deaths. In Michigan, we are only 14% of the population and represent 40% of the deaths. New York has just shared that 33% of deaths are Hispanic and 27.5% are non-Hispanic blacks. And, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, African Americans represent just 26% of the population but are over 81% of the coronavirus deaths.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8eDzI4MiYQ

Dr. Anthony Fauci took time to lay it out during a press conference on April 7, 2020. He clearly states that we are not more susceptible to the virus, but instead various pre-existing conditions like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and asthma are contributing factors along with poverty and access to care that are causing many African Americans to end up in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). But it is this reality that is also leading to the spike in deaths from those in this community. In fact, “white house officials worry the coronavirus is hitting African Americans worse” than other demographics. 

So what’s the plan in the middle of this pandemic?

STOP

  • Promoting the fallacy that we cannot contract or are unaffected by the Coronavirus.
  • Having church services in person and expecting God to “cover you with His Blood.” When you read Leviticus and look at how the children of Israel were directed to respond when illness was identified in the community they were told to isolate or quarantine. And those who obeyed lived. God Himself believes in flattening the curve by minimizing people’s contact with a virus.

  • Gathering in groups. Practice social distancing. Stay at home. And when you do go out, where a mask and be alert.
  • Making choices that will increase your risk of being a statistic in this pandemic.
  • Believing that they have the answer for us. Remember Tuskegee. Find medical providers that you can trust and who have your best interest at heart.

START

  • Recognizing that you make the choices that impact your health.
  • Identifying as who you really are. You are a Child of God who is fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. Get in His face everyday. Study His word everyday. Listen for His plan for you and follow (obey) everything He tells you to do! Coronavirus is challenging all we believe. But, God is still faithful.
  • Taking yourself to bed at night. That’s when the immune system restores itself. According to the Sleep Foundation, “without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response.” If we’re going to boost our immune systems and fight this coronavirus we’re going to have to do a bulk of that fighting laying down.

  • Exercising. Going outside in the fresh air and sunlight everyday stimulates all they body’s systems keeping you healthy. And, according to Dr. Richard Hobday, fresh air and sunlight also helps to destroy viruses. Can’t go outside? No Problem. Jessica Slaughter reversed obesity and improved her health just by walking around her apartment. The key is to get moving. Don’t let this stay-at-home order keep you stationary. Find ways to exercise and move about, both inside and outside.

KEEP

  • Making healthier food choices. Meat, dairy products, sugar, processed food, alcohol, and caffeine do nothing to keep the immune system healthy. Start eating more plant-based foods. Mix up some of those traditional foods/herbs Grandmama used to keep as well. Garlic and onions are full of anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Garlic was actually used to fight disease before the development of antibiotics. Check out Nature’s Penicillin Recipe. You can even start gardening by using containers. Also, be sure to check out the various health and food articles right here at Message for amazing recipes. Watch how much better you’ll actually start to feel.

  • Drinking water. Nothing does the body better than that. I know, we love those red drinks and our sweet tea. But, they don’t boost immune health. As a matter of fact, all that sugar in those drinks weakens the ability of the white blood cells to kill viral and bacterial invaders. Make sure you’re drinking half your body weight in ounces everyday. Then after you exercise, take a hot and cold shower. Or, before you go to bed take a warm bath. Hydrotherapy has been proven to assist the body systems and improve immune response.

REST

  • Take advantage of this time off to do some honest inventory of your life. What have you been doing that you really don’t need to be doing? Are you really using your power of choice to your health’s advantage. Can you live with less? Can you bless others more? Is there a God-given gift you have not used or improved? This rest period can be seen as an inconvenience or a blessing.

Be Made Well

Staying safe during the Coronavirus pandemic really is about making good choices. More and more African Americans need to realize that their healing is in their own hands. We need to take control of and responsibility for our choices and change the narrative surrounding our physical, mental, and spiritual health. It is in making the right choices that we not only improve our odds against COVID-19, but we also improve our odds against heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, asthma, and stress. 

Seeing the man lying at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus asked him “do you want to be made well?” This suggests that our wellness, our wholeness, is not a coincidence of fate or laissez-faire faith. But it is in the intentionality of our faith and our works. It is in both believing in Christ and allowing that belief to penetrate our behavior. When we change what do and base it off what we believe, we will start to see transformational healings in our lives. I know, that by changing our diets, exercising, drinking more water, and spending time reflecting on God you will experience healing and freedom just like the lame man in Acts. And when this pandemic passes you too will be in the temple again walking and leaping and praising God. 

Are you ready to beat this Coronavirus? Let’s all make better choices and be made whole, today. 




It’s All Grief: COVID-19 and Layers of Loss

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has hit the globe like a whirlwind. The impact of the novel illness is not only affecting people physically, but it’s bringing up numerous mental and social issues as governments, communities, and individuals try to cope with the far reaching toll of the virus. Large cities such as New York and Los Angeles have their residents sheltering in place, and people all over the country are encouraged to physically distance themselves in order to decrease the spread of the virus. School buildings have closed with classrooms moving to virtual platforms, and over 10 million Americans are unemployed. And to top it all off, hospitals are immensely overwhelmed with an increased need for personnel, resources, and equipment for critically ill patients.

Grief on a Spectrum

There are almost no words to describe the many losses taking place during this moment in time. Grief in its simplest definition is a reaction to a loss, death related or non-death related. It is felt daily and for many people, grief adds up and multiplies rapidly as environments, routines and social structures change. And while COVID-19 ravages our world, many are feeling grief for a variety of reasons. What is important to say here is that there should be no shame in talking about the various experiences individuals, young and old, are having during this time.

Throughout news and social media outlets we are bombarded with grief. Politicians, journalists, and healthcare workers are displaying their genuine feelings as they work tirelessly to help the sick and keep the public informed. Daily, we hear and see families and friends mourning the deaths of loved ones they were not able to see in hospitals, nursing homes, and penitentiaries. Financial burdens swamp households as many are forced to stay home unpaid. And the constant changes the virus is bringing physically, emotionally, and financially are presenting an ever widening spectrum of grief. What we must be careful of during this time is not to allow ourselves to put loss on a hierarchy validating some losses to the neglect of others.

Somewhere guardians are frazzled because children with special needs have had their schedules interrupted, a couple’s birth plan is disrupted, a senior student has several milestone events unexpectedly cancelled and an individual with few social connections feels isolated and alone. And more issues still arise. Like the grief of losing purpose when there is no longer a place of work to travel to, the grief of missing self-care activities like hair appointments, the grief of losing feelings of safety and security all in a time where the unknown looms. But we must remember that all grief matters.

What Grief Looks Like

In many ways, the various griefs caused by COVID- 19 parallel what grievers have been saying for years about the deaths of special persons. There is no sense of control and people who feel out of control express their grief in many ways. Cognitively there can be a loss of concentration, forgetting of tasks, many idle hours scanning the internet not retaining much information, and a need for technological screen time to escape. Physically there can be more headaches, uneasiness in the pits of stomachs, and increased anxiety which can manifest physically and cognitively. Emotionally, feelings of anger, frustration, and fear may present as new challenges arise.

For many, less talked about feelings develop, like guilt. Some have the privilege of being able to continue working while others cannot, and some are able to retreat to homes that they consider safe spaces in contrast with others who must stay in spaces where they are abused or battered. There are individuals who feel the grief of no choice, as they risk unsafe conditions at work versus risking financial stability. Furthermore, many feel inadequate and less productive as they struggle to keep up with daily changes and stressors. This is what makes grief layered and complicated. It’s possible to experience one and numerous manifestations of grief all at once. Loss may also be compounded as individuals find their regular mechanisms of coping inaccessible or not comforting while trying to meet the various new challenges of the day.

New Normal

Amidst all these aspects of grief lies another core experience and question for many grievers, particularly those of death related loss: will my life ever be ‘normal’ again? For grievers the answer is often no as they begin their journey to find what the new normal will be. Although anticipative that cases of COVID-19 will decline and that the virus will be further studied and cured, scientists and doctors predict that the worst is still ahead of us. With much more death and loss still to come it can be argued that this pandemic will leave a lasting imprint in the American psyche.

Loyola Medicine employees have a daily prayer over a basket of messages reflecting the hopes of patients at Loyola University Medical Center at the chapel in Maywood on March 31, 2020. Sister Xiomara Mendez-Hernandez, from left, COVID-19 unit nurse Tiffany Fulton and chaplain Robert Andorka. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

As we continue to experience loss we will forever reflect on how these changes have transformed our individual lives and our communities. Over the last few weeks we have certainly seen a surge in compassion as people band together to offer one another support. And the ingenuity around virtual weddings and funerals, phoning in loved ones at hospitals, and the many other ways people have created to connect have bonded the human family as we all try to navigate grief nationally and globally. Just this week, The Chicago Tribune reported of hospital chaplains praying over notes from patients, and using creative means to make sure that “no one dies alone.”

As new normals are created there is often the need to find meaning in one’s situation. The truth is, for some, the whys of grief may always outweigh any answers received. What’s important to accept is that it is ok to recognize and name the losses that are impacting your own life. For a moment, forget comparing your loss to that of others and just let yourself be and feel. In many ways we are all grieving. In these times let’s support one another. Instead of analyzing and creating hierarchies of loss, let’s focus on how to stay connected and validate each other in the most vulnerable parts of our personal experiences. It’s all grief.




Tips to Prevent a Coronavirus Infection

  1. Keep Hands Clean
    • Wash your hands with soap 10-20 seconds when you return home or encounter something or someone. (May Use Anti-Bacterial Soap).
    • Use disinfectant wipes that are Greater than 60% alcohol-based or Clorox wipes. Use to wipe handles and child seat, grocery carts, etc.
    • Keep a sanitizer at each of your home or office entrances and in your car. Use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects.
  2. Be Careful About What You Touch
    • No Handshaking, Kissing or Hugging! Use a fist bump or elbow bump.
    • Use only your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc. Open Doors with Your Closed Fist or Hip – Do Not Grasp the Door Handles or Gasoline Dispenser with Your Bare Hand.  Use Latex or Nitrile Latex Disposable Gloves or Paper Towels.
  3. Cough or Sneeze Into a Disposable Tissue and Discard. Use Your Elbow Only If You Have To. (The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more.)
  4. Use disposable surgical masks to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth. (This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask won’t prevent the virus if someone sneezes directly on you).
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Face masks should be used by persons showing symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease and by health workers and people caring for someone at home or in a health care facility.
  5. Reduce or Eliminate Sugar and Dairy
  6. Use A lot of Water Inside and Outside
  7. Exercise – Moderate Exercise Stimulates the Immune System
  8. Increase Vitamin C
  9. Zinc (Proven effective in blocking coronavirus and most other viruses from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx.) Take the equivalent of 30 mg each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. (Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available).
  10. Avoid Close Contact with People Who Are Sick AND Stay Home When You Are Sick.



The Truth About the Coronavirus

In December of 2019 a cluster of unusual pneumonia was detected in Wuhan, which is the capital of Hubei Province in the People’s Republic of China. In January of 2020 the cause of the infection was discovered and found and has come to be commonly known as the Coronovirus. The truth is, COVID-19 is the official name of the infectious disease and it is caused by this most recently discovered coronavirus.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which usually cause illness in animals. The virus is transmitted to humans who come into close contact with the infected animal, like contact with bats. The open market of Wuhan, China is thought to be the area where the initial contact occurred. Many speculated that the virus made human contact through cuisine like “bat soup.” But a recent study in the Journal of Medical Virology shows that while the spreading of the virus originated with bats, it much more likely was transferred from bats to snakes (as snakes eat bats) and then to humans. Within this study scientists determined that such knowledge reveals that the notion of the virus being caused by eating “bat soup” is not only misinformed, but potentially xenophobic.

In humans, several coronaviruses have already been known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. All of these symptoms could also be from an infection by the common cold virus.  So it is important to ask if the sick person had any recent travel to China.

The risk of becoming infected by COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease. It is therefore possible to “catch” COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.

COVID-19 Statistics

Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying chronic medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to contract the serious illness. But only about 2% of people with the disease have died.

As of this publication, there have been 81,407 confirmed cases world wide. There have been 2,772 deaths and 30,406 patients have recovered. There are 48,229 active cases, with 39,361 (82%) being mild and 8,868 (18%) being severe or critical cases. The cases of infected individuals is however projected to increase worldwide.

A new case of coronavirus was confirmed in the United States on Wednesday, February 27, bringing the total number of cases in this country to 60. As of today, March 4, the virus has caused 11 deaths. For more information, outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post are providing live, full coverage of the global epidemic giving updates as these numbers change.

Protection From COVID-19

You may have noticed on the news that many people are wearing surgical face masks to

protect themselves. This is because the primary way the disease is transmitted, person to person, is through respiratory droplets coughed or expelled by someone who is infected. Simple surgical masks are however not effective against this virus. The only type of masks that protect are the respirators that fit tight to the face and include a filtration system. If you are coughing, the common surgical mask only provides a small degree of protection.

Young women wear face masks as protection against the coronavirus during Chinese New Year celebrations in London on January 26, 2020. | Barry Lewis/In pictures via Getty Images

Here are some ways of protecting yourself from not only getting infected by COVID-19 but also from all other kinds of viruses and bacteria:

  1. You should regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand wash or better, wash hands with soap and water.
  2. If someone is coughing or sneezing, continue to love them, but from at least 3 feet away.
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and of course, don’t pick your nose. Wash hands before eating anything, yes, anything.
  4. If you are coughing or sneezing, do it in your bent elbow or in tissue or wear a mask. Dispose of the tissue immediately. Do not use a handkerchief.
  5. Ministers, instead of shaking hands use the fist bump or a big smile when greeting members after church.
  6. Stay home if you feel sick. If you are experiencing a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, don’t be heroic and go to work or school. Call your health care provider for advice.

The Truth About Coronavirus

Antibiotics will not help in treating this viral infection. There is increasing evidence showing that Vitamin D may be helpful in preventing Coronaviruses from attaching to cells. It appears that the virus attaches to the cells via an enzyme called ACE2. Vitamin D reduces this enzyme therefore preventing a viral attachment.

Information from the WHO (World Health Organization) also stresses that eating a balanced diet with fresh fruit and vegetables will help the body resist infection.

All of this should not be a surprise to us as Children of a God. Jesus himself, in speaking about the last days before He returns for His people, says in Luke 21:11, “there will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilence in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.”

This possible pandemic of COVID-19 may be the beginning of the end. We’re going home soon.