By Jacquelyn S. Dalton, MPH, NAACP Nashville Health Committee Chair
All too often we allow personal health to fall to the bottom of the priority list. Bogged down by work, parenting, caring for friends and loved ones, and other day-to-day activities – how we “feel” becomes just a bother to all the other things we have to get done. We forget that being healthy is not having a sickness as well as being able to thrive physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Health is just as much about investing in self as it is managing diabetes or maintaining a healthy weight.
This year’s Black History Month theme is “Black Health and Wellness”, highlighting the importance of physical, mental, social and spiritual wellness and all the ways the Black community has creatively taken care of ourselves over the years. This includes our formally trained Black doctors, nurses, midwives and researchers, but also the Black medicine men, faith healers, and herbal home remedies from grandmama’s medicine cabinet. The healing of our ancestors.
I recently sat down and had a conversation with Mariah Shepherd, a Clinical Therapist and leader of the Black Client Services Team at the Sexual Assualt Center of Middle Tennessee. We discussed the importance of investing in your own health. During the conversation, I explained how I use the phrase Health is Wealth as a metaphor for how people should approach their personal health. Such a rich, yet simple phrase explains how investing in health is just as important as accumulating wealth.
In America, and all over the world, people take their finances seriously! For example, if someone owed you money by today, you'd likely make it a top priority to call and check on it before the day was over. If you're expecting a payment to your account on a certain day, likely first thing that morning, you’re going to log in and check on it – but, would you react the same for your health?
If it’s time to schedule your annual appointment, have you scheduled it? Have you set a goal to lose weight but haven’t started the exercise plan yet? Are you feeling exhausted at work everyday, but telling yourself you’ll get rest on your next vacation? Are you taking your health for granted because you feel okay?
As I spoke with Mariah, I shared my belief that if everyone invested in personal health, similar to how we approach our money, wealth and finances, we would eventually see much better health outcomes than what we have presently, especially in the Black community.
Yes, don’t get me wrong, there are systemic issues that Black and Brown people have to work through like institutional bias and racism in the healthcare system, and we must remain vigilant in that regard. However, each individual has the power to choose how they react to their environment, including how you choose to – or not to – take care of your health.
I discussed the social determinants of health with Mariah, and as I explained that there are many various factors that impact a person’s health status, I also gave five practical steps that people can take to prevent illness and improve their personal health.
Those five actions are:
1) Get covered | Having or not having health insurance is often a primary factor for whether or not you can receive a healthcare service. Having health insurance is like saving for a rainy day.
2) Get Your Annual Wellness Check-Up | A wellness visit to your primary care provider once a year keeps you healthy and helps you catch any signs of sickness early. Even if you don’t have healthcare insurance, there are many clinics you can visit for free or on a sliding scale in the Nashville area.
3) Exercise & Eat Well | You’ve likely heard these two tried and true methods for staying healthy. The fact remains, eating vegetable and fruit-based diets in combination with some sort of regular physical activity is a way to live. You pick the activities and foods you like and stay consistent!
4) Mindfulness | I can never stress enough the importance of mental wellness. There are numerous benefits to taking a pause to breathe deeply, release tension and be present in the moment. Cal Maritime offers a handful of convenient resources for African Americans’ mindfulness here.
5) Rest! | Sleep deprivation and just plain old lack of adequate sleep has been linked to many illnesses and diseases. Getting an average of 7-8 hours of rest everyday takes you further than the next day, it can carry you for a lifetime.
Learn more about the NAACP Health Committee at www.naacpnashville.org.
Join the NAACP Health Committee and the National Black Nurses Association - Nashville Chapter for our next event “Healthcare Heroes: Staying Well & Overcoming Adversity” on Saturday, February 26, 2022 at 12pm. Register for the event here: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAud-6opj0pHtzXOUiYGaZaBxonrwyu8c5f