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Most families all over the world are quarantined with kids and are forced to find new ways to balance everyday living. Check out these helpful tips on getting through the day so you can be prepared and refreshed for the next:

Remain Calm – Being able to provide your child calm and stability is extremely important, especially during these uncertain times. Although we can’t predict tomorrow or what the day may bring, it’s important for your children to see and know that you are a consistent and stable figure throughout their day. Children will often take in their parent's attitudes, personalities, and mannerisms, so if you’re seeking calm in your household, start from within.

Create a schedule – Consistency is crucial to children of all ages. Before quarantine, most children were on strict school/home/sleep schedules to keep them engaged, active, and well rested. Setting a schedule as similar to their pre-quarantine schedule can make a big difference in behavior. Online school tends to be shorter and less hands-on, so it’s important to not rely on that solely for activity throughout the day. Make your own learning plans that align with their online learning plans, set start and end times for different studies and check in with their progress throughout the day. Try to adjust your schedule to work with their needs but remain consistent!

Set expectations – setting a to-do list and daily goals is not only beneficial in the workplace, but in the home as well. Use age-appropriate language to discuss with your children the plans for the day, what you need to accomplish, and what you expect for them to accomplish as well. Once the daily expectations are met, you can decide what type of reward or privilege is appropriate for your child, but always acknowledge things getting done!

Talk it out – Talk to your children about how quarantine or other daily concerns are affecting them. At this point, most families know and understand that the world is a bit different than how it use to be. However, it’s important that you provide a safe place for your children to openly discuss their personal challenges. Sometimes a listening ear and some reassurance is all they need to reduce anxiety, stress, and sadness. Often times these symptoms can present themselves in children as overactivity, attention seeking behavior, over/under eating, and moodiness. Talk to your children and find a professional if you notice any of these changes.

Ask and be willing to receive help – Undoubtedly, you are dealing with A LOT! Don't be hard on yourself. Reach out to your SMILE team if you are unsure where to start for support. Do the best you can and learn to forgive yourself if you fall short. Take breaks. Take deep breaths. Pray, write, stretch, exercise...whatever recharges YOU! Start from within!

Despite its common role as the centerpiece of your typical American meal, meat does not have to make the meal. A meatless meal can provide all the nutrients and flavor at a fraction of the cost. With some time and patience exploring the world of foods beyond meat, even the most dedicated carnivores can feel satisfied by a meatless meal, or a meal with less meat or healthier meats. 

The benefits of ditching meat for plants is well-documented. Health-conscious people who don’t eat meat (vegans and vegetarians) tend to eat more beans, whole grains, and vegetables and consume fewer calories compared to meat-eaters, so they often weigh less and have a lower risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases. People who eat red meat (beef, lamb, etc.) and processed meats (deli meat) have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer.

If you can’t let go of meat completely, consider reducing your meat consumption and opting for leaner, healthier cuts of meat. Think of meat as a “topping” or garnish instead of as the main event. Choose chicken over beef and chicken breast over chicken wings—the leaner the better.

If you crave the flavor and texture of meat, you may choose artificial meat sources such as Beyond Burger, but be sure to check the nutritional content first as many artificial meat sources are high in sodium and other unhealthy additives. Learn about meat substitutes like breadfruit and tofu, and attend a Health and Nutrition class for food demonstrations on how to cook delicious, plant-based meals.

This March, in honor of National Nutrition Month and Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, AAHP encourages you to experiment with reducing your meat consumption or going all-out with a #MeatlessMarch.

Source: www.mayoclinic.org

Tooth decay is often first discovered at the dentist’s office. Then and there, your doctor can fill your cavities and send you along with a date for your next appointment in six months. Because that process, like so many other things, has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, many people may learn of the poor condition of their teeth by suffering from a toothache.

Seeing a dentist every six months is an important oral health practice, but diligently practicing good oral hygiene is fundamental. That means brushing twice every day for a whole two minutes, flossing daily, drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding sweets and processed foods. When you’re taking good care of your teeth, you don’t dread going to the dentist as much. And you can feel more confident that a toothache won’t pop up.

If you or your child or children are due for a dentist appointment, call your dentist and learn about their recommendations and safety protocols. Because dentist offices already held stringent infection control measures, dentists have had lower rates of COVID infection compared to other healthcare professionals. Therefore, if you’re way overdue for a dentist appointment, and you’ve been slacking on your oral care routine and indulging your sweet tooth too often, it may be best to make an appointment before that toothache hits.

Sources:

www.clevelandclinic.org
www.verywellhealth.com

Adolescence and teenage years are not for the faint of heart, especially with COVID-19 and social media in the mix. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and even more severe mental health conditions like bipolar disorder often manifest in the teen years and can lead to a lifetime of struggle with other health issues such as drug abuse. That’s why adolescents and teens need strong mental health support to grow into healthy adulthood.

Parents and caregivers can help adolescents and teens navigate these tumultuous years with connectedness. Open and honest communication with teens, proper supervision, and sharing and engaging in activities with teens can help parents and caregivers build strong bonds with the youth in their lives. It’s also important for parents and caregivers to communicate and collaborate with other adults in a youth’s life, such as coaches, teachers, and other activity leaders.

For more information, check out this handy infographic from the National Association of Mental Health (NAMI) here.

Health Hint

Eye strain is a common problem among adults who work at a computer daily. To help prevent it, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends following the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away from your computer for 20 seconds at an object 20 feet away. If your eyes still consistently feel fatigued, make an appointment to see an optometrist.

Source: www.aao.org

Featured Video

Social media influencer Tabitha Brown discusses her vegan meal prep strategy for the week:

Featured Recipe: Grilled Portobello Mushroom Steaks

For many weary souls, 2021 couldn’t have gotten here soon enough! After a challenging 2020, a brand-new year before us offers new opportunities to be better, stronger, and healthier. As we celebrate and wish each other all the best in the year ahead, let’s reflect on how the lessons from 2020 can help us conquer 2021 and beyond.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the importance of health and the reality of racial health disparities. In the aftermath of disproportionate sickness and death from COVID-19, the shining light placed on African American health has prompted a loud call to action. The healthcare industry has been forced to reckon with its long history of mistreatment and neglect of African Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic motivated many people to take their health more seriously and led to increased participation in self-managed health and wellness activities and increased awareness of nutrition, exercise, and mental health. By keeping the momentum going, individually and collectively, we can transform our health in sustainable ways.
 
We also approach 2021 with a deeper appreciation of social interaction and healthy interpersonal relationships. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures made it easier for people to bond with loved ones inside their households while making it more difficult to spend time with loved ones outside their homes—both circumstances have highlighted the value of relationships to mental health and well-being. The rise in domestic abuse, suicide, and substance abuse has also emphasized the need for mental health resources. As we look forward to a post-pandemic world, we can work to strengthen and promote healthy relationships and positive social interactions to build our collective mental health and emotional resilience.
 
Let’s work together to make 2021 a year of comebacks and help each other grow in new ways. AAHP invites you to learn more about our health services by visiting our website here. You can also spread the word by sharing and promoting AAHP’s resources and services with your network.
As you work to achieve your 2021 health goals, be sure to have the basics down:
 
Do you have a trusted primary care physician (PCP)? A trusted PCP can help you navigate your health journey towards longevity and a better quality of life. According to Primary Care Progress, “adults in the U.S. who have a primary care provider have 19% lower odds of premature death than those who only see specialists for their care.” AAHP provides referrals to PCPs for AAHP clients as a critical part of chronic disease prevention and management strategy.
 
Are you current on recommended preventive health screenings, vaccinations, and tests? Based on your age, gender, and other factors, evidence-based preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies detect disease so you can seek treatment sooner rather than later. Vaccinations help build immunity against communicable diseases like measles, flu, HPV, and COVID-19. Routine STD testing can help you manage your sexual health and prevent the spread of STDs. Check out the Cleveland Clinic’s Health Maintenance Guidelines for Adults for more information.
 
Do you know and understand your health metrics? Your health metrics include your BMI (body mass index), blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose. These numbers are especially important if you are obese, prediabetic or diabetic. Carefully monitoring these numbers is vital to developing a plan that includes goals and benchmarks towards improving your health and preventing the development of heart disease and other serious health complications. AAHP offers free health screenings by enrolling in remote patient monitoring or at select sites: see our calendar for dates and locations.
 
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Speaking of vaccines, did you know the HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9) is 99% effective in preventing HPV (human papilloma virus), the virus that most often causes cervical cancer?
 
HPV is an extremely common STD that consists of thousands of strains, some of which cause cervical cancer. Although cervical cancer is highly preventable, in the U.S., nearly 13,000 women are diagnosed each year and more than 4,000 die from it each year. Highly effective in preventing HPV infection, the HPV vaccine is routinely recommended for boys and girls ages 11 and 12. In the video from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) below, Dr. Margot Savoy, MPH, discusses why the HPV vaccine is so critical and addresses the concerns parents have about getting their 11 and 12-year-olds vaccinated:
Gynecological screenings (pap tests) can also help prevent cervical cancer by detecting precancerous cells in the cervix. As with most cancers, early detection is key! The CDC recommends women ages 21-65 get a pap test every two to three years. Most women who die from cervical cancer did not have regular pap tests.
 
This Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, AAHP encourages you to learn and share info about cervical cancer. If you are due for a pap test, make an appointment! If you or your child is eligible to take the HPV vaccine, do your research and make an appointment to get it! Learn more about Montgomery County’s cervical cancer screenings here.
 
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Golden Globe-winning actor, writer, and producer Taraji P. Henson brings mental health awareness to social media with her new talk show, Peace of Mind with Taraji, which airs new episodes on Facebook Watch on Mondays and Wednesdays. With her best friend Tracie Jade as cohost, Taraji discusses mental health with celebrities, mental health experts and regular people. The series premier aired on Tuesday, December 14 and featured Gabrielle Union who discussed having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being sexually assaulted. The show seeks to prompt serious conversations about mental health and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
 
> Watch Peace of Mind with Taraji here. (Click the follow button and turn on video notifications.)
 
“Mental health issues are huge in communities of color,” Henson told Healthline in a 2018 interview. “We experience trauma on a daily basis, in the media, in our neighborhoods, schools, the prison system, or simply walking down the street, you name it.” Henson’s father, a Vietnam veteran, suffered from PTSD and was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Having witnessed her father’s experience with mental illness and having struggled to find an African-American therapist to help support her own mental health, Henson was driven to start The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF), a nonprofit organization named after her father. The BLHF works to strengthen mental health support for African Americans in urban schools, prisons, and communities.
 
Mental health support for African Americans is now more important than ever. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, African Americans were 10 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic whites, but only 1 in 3 African Americans received mental health treatment, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. A recent study by Johns Hopkins showed that the suicide rate among Black Maryland residents appears to have doubled the recent historical average during lockdown (March 5 through May 7). As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on everyday life, threatening the progress made in reducing health disparities, African American organizations are tasked to create resources and opportunities to support mental health and emotional resilience. AAHP Mental Health Screening Tool is for individuals to make an anonymous informal personal assessment of their mental health and to receive referrals for local mental health resources.

Health Hint

To help the days, weeks, and months of 2021 run more smoothly, focus on building solid morning and bedtime routines. An efficient morning routine can help you remain focused and productive throughout the day while an effective bedtime routine can help you sleep better, which in turn helps you maintain your morning routine.
 

Featured Video

NowThis News tells the story of a young man whose partner died giving birth:

Featured Recipe: Creamy Asparagus and Pea Soup

Data from the 2018 Montgomery County Annual HIV Epidemiological Profile reveals that African Americans in Montgomery County are disproportionately impacted by HIV and in 2018 made up 61% of new diagnoses as 17% of the County population. To address this disparity, AAHP offers HIV/AIDS education, testing, and other sexual health resources for African Americans in Montgomery County. AAHP also provides counseling for people who test positive for HIV to delay the onset of AIDS and prevent some life-threatening conditions from emerging.
 
Each year, AAHP observes World AIDS Day on December 1 to highlight the progress made in building an HIV-free future for Montgomery County. It is also a day of celebration and support for the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS and those working to eradicate it. While AAHP did not host a World AIDS Day event this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AAHP continued to promote sexual health awareness and encouraged County Black residents to get tested.
 
If you do not know your HIV status, make an appointment to get tested. And tell your loved ones about AAHP’s HIV testing and sexual health resources. Visit www.aahpmontgomerycounty.org for more info.
 
Black women are unstoppable. From the highest levels of government, as entrepreneurs, in communities and households in Montgomery County and nationwide, Black women SHOW UP and do the work to build capacity and resources for empowerment. In the spirit of recognizing the indomitable force of Black womanhood, AAHP celebrates the work of two outstanding organizations making real differences in the lives of African American women across the country: GirlTrek and Black Girls RUN!.
 
"When black women walk, things change," say T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, GirlTrek’s enterprising founders. Longtime friends, Garrison and Dixon formed GirlTrek in 2010 to mobilize Black women to come together and walk for health and healing in our bodies, homes, and communities. GirlTrek is the largest health nonprofit for women and girls. The organization recently reached a milestone: one million women and girls have pledged to walk with GirlTrek in the direction of their healthiest, most fulfilled lives. Watch this inspiring video to hear Ms. Dixon’s powerful testimony of how she beat depression by walking.
 
Black Girls RUN! (BGR!) was founded in 2009 to address the obesity epidemic in the African American community and to encourage Black women to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. BGR! hosts runs, walks, and other fitness-related events and offers support and resources to new and veteran runners. With over 250,000 members nationwide, BGR! provides a community where Black women bond over love of fitness. Watch this feature from NBC News to see BGR! in action.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a severe flu season could be devastating. Each year, flu causes tens of millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths in the United States. A CDC study of 10 flu seasons from 2009-2010 through 2018-2019 showed that African Americans had the highest flu-related hospitalization rates. An annual flu shot is generally recommended for everyone six months or older. Increased risk of hospitalization makes getting a flu shot especially important for African Americans.
 
Unfortunately, due to incidents like the Tuskegee Experiment, many African Americans harbor deep mistrust of the American medical establishment, which hinders many from getting a flu shot. But it’s important to examine the facts about flu vaccination and heavily consider the real consequences. Getting sick from flu means missing school or work, and time away from loved ones for about a week or longer. Getting a flu shot is one safe and simple act we all can do to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. It also helps save medical resources and protects health workers so they can continue caring for people with COVID-19.
 
Doctors’ offices and pharmacies are taking steps to ensure vaccines can be provided safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, including where to find a flu shot near you, visit GetMyFluShot.org. Updates on Montgomery County’s flu vaccination clinics can be found here
 
Visit www.AAHPCovid.com to be tested for COVID-19. Remember Don’t Stress. Take the Test!
 
Sources:
While any holiday season can take a toll on our emotional and mental health, this holiday season unleashed a wave of loneliness, depression and anxiety that has been far more unbearable for many. But now is the time to really focus on mental and physical health. Be mindful that elevated stress levels may cause you to eat poorly, overeat, not eat enough, drink in excess, or engage in other unhealthy behaviors, so make special efforts not to do so.
 
Keep your mind and body in good shape with exercise and good stress management practices. Exercise is one of the best ways to lower stress. Prayer and meditation are also linked to lowered depression and anxiety symptoms. Talking about your feelings—with friends, family, or a professional—can help you through this exceptionally difficult holiday season.
 
Let’s do our best to stay hopeful and healthy. If you are in need of mental health services or resources, please reach out to AAHP’s social worker at 301-562-5309 or Shauniqua.key@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Health Hint

Why wait until January 1st to start your diet or your exercise regimen? If you’re serious about accomplishing your New Year’s Resolutions, why not start now? If your goal is to lose weight, if you focus on building healthy habits now, it will become easier to make good decisions as the holidays progress. You can get help from the AAHP Weight Management Program by contacting Regina Barnes at (240)777-1833.

Featured Video

In this animated video, TED-Ed explains what happens to your brain when sugar hits your tongue.

Featured Recipe: Vegan Sweet Potato Pie

Every November, AAHP observes American Diabetes Month to promote awareness of diabetes and our work to help Black Montgomery County residents manage and prevent diabetes. More than 34 million Americans live with diabetes, with African Americans facing higher risks of death and serious health complications from diabetes compared to White Americans. AAHP’s Diabetes/Heart Health focus area gives hope and resources to diabetics (and prediabetics) who wish to take control of their health by making positive lifestyle changes.
 
This American Diabetes Month, AAHP challenges you to take AT LEAST one of the following actions to spread awareness of diabetes and its impact:
  • Learn more about AAHP’s services and programs for diabetes education, prevention and management by visiting AAHP’s website.
  • Attend a Health Promotion (formerly called Chronic Disease Management) class on zoom. Check out AAHP’s calendar to see the class schedule, and click on the Zoom link for each class to register and attend.
  • Sign up for dMeetings, AAHP’s online diabetes education classes.
  • Sign up for AAHP’s new Diabetes Prevention Program (see more info below).
  • Share a post about diabetes from AAHP’s FacebookInstagram, or Twitter pages.
If you are prediabetic or at risk for developing diabetes, join AAHP’s new Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Led by the Centers for Disease Control, the program guides participants through lifestyle changes that can help prevent Type 2 diabetes. Learn more:
Source: www.diabetes.org

Most people understand that smoking can lead to lung cancer. In fact, according to the CDC, smoking causes roughly 90% of all lung cancer deaths. However, despite being highly preventable, lung cancer kills around 146,000 Americans each year. But what is the reality behind those numbers? Consider these five lesser-known facts:

  1. Lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined. 
  2. African American men have the highest rates of lung cancer in the U.S., with an incidence rate 30% higher than for White men. Both African American women and men are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer in spite of lower smoking rates and less exposure to cigarette smoke compared to White Americans. 
  3. Because lung cancer screening comes with health risks, lung cancer screening is recommended only for people who have a history of heavy smoking, and currently smoke or recently quit within the past 15 years, and are between the ages of 55 and 80.
  4. People who live and spend a great deal of time around smokers increase their lung cancer risk as much as 20-30% through secondhand smoke.
  5. More than half of lung cancer patients die within one year of diagnosis.

For information and resources to help you or a loved one stop smoking, visit Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services online or call 240-777-1222. 

Life continually throws at us unexpected challenges. At times, the pace of life and our various struggles overwhelm us. How we respond in these moments impacts our health more than most people may realize. We must protect our physical and mental health by focusing on building emotional resilience and managing stress in healthy and productive ways.
 
Now, more than ever, it’s important to learn and practice good stress management. Learn breathing techniques that can help you relax and lower your blood pressure. Pray, meditate, and practice gratitude as best as you can according to your faith. Exercise regularly to fight depression, manage your weight, and prevent chronic disease. Consider professional therapy and self-care coaching. These health practices can help you keep your mind and your body strong.
 
On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you respond to stress in harmful ways such as drinking alcohol in excess, using drugs, or overeating, your body and your mind will take a hit. Chronic stress keeps our cortisol (stress hormone) levels elevated, which can impair immune function, increase the risk for chronic disease, and make it harder to lose weight. Stress can exacerbate a host of health issues, including heart disease (leading to strokes and heart attacks), preterm labor, mental illness, and substance abuse.
 
While it’s almost impossible for most people to have the best response to stress 100% of the time, we can do the best we can, one decision at a time.

Back to School Facts and Stats

  • Over 70% of young people who took a screen at mhascreening.org between April and July 2020 mentioned loneliness and isolation as the main things contributing to their struggles. Learn more about #CopingDuringCOVID at mhanational.org/backtoschool.
  • Young people continue to be disproportionately affected by COVID19 related mental health issues. Roughly 9 in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe depression and 8 in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe #anxiety. Learn more at mhanational.org/backtoschool. #BackToSchool2020
  • Chronic loneliness, which many of us are feeling these days due to COVID19, can translate to poor sleep, high blood pressure, greater risk of suicidal ideation, and even alcohol and drug use. Learn more about #CopingDuringCOVID at mhanational.org/backtoschool. #BackToSchool2020
  • If your kid or teen seems to be struggling, and it persists, something more serious might be going on. Get screened for mental health at MHAscreening.org. #BackToSchool2020
  • Since March of 2020, 83% of 11-to-17-year-olds screened positive or at-risk for #anxiety at MHAscreening. org, and 91% screened positive or at-risk for #depression. Learn more at mhanational.org/backtoschool. #BackToSchool2020 #CopingDuringCOVID
  • 61% of teachers said their jobs were always or often stressful and 58% said they had poor mental health due to stress. Debates over reopening and safety concerns are making teachers’ mental health worse. Learn more at mhanational.org/backtoschool.
#CopingDuringCOVID #BackToSchool2020 

AAHP’s SMILE Program’s New Digital Resources

In support of Black Montgomery County moms and their families, AAHP is excited to introduce a series of videos and online tools on pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding, and more. Visit AAHP’s website to see the coming videos on pregnancy through the first year of life.
 
Check out the SMILE program’s childhood development classes, featuring presentations by SMILE nurse case managers. The more moms learn and participate in SMILE activities, the more SMILE bucks they can cash in for giveaways and prizes like pacifiers, books, car seats, and more. The next class will be held on November 20 at 1pm. Check the calendar for later dates. Learn more about the SMILE bucks program here.

Health Hint

Although social distancing remains in effect for Thanksgiving, putting a twist on your videochat festivities can offer new ways to make special memories. Research creative celebration ideas, such as planning a family menu and cooking together while videochatting. Coordinate a recipe swap and cook-off. Take a “Zoom 2020 Family Photo.” Have a centerpiece contest. Creativity is key in helping us cherish special times with loved ones even during difficult times.

Featured Video

This animated video from TedEX explains how yoga’s combination of movement and posture, breathing techniques, and spiritual contemplation can benefit one’s health:

Featured Recipe: Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Pudding

The health and vitality of our community starts with the womb. Standing on the front lines of the battle against infant mortality, the SMILE program provides Black Montgomery County moms with the support, education, and guidance they need as they bring forth and nurture new life. As we observe National Infant Mortality Awareness Month, we encourage everyone to join us in this effort by doing their part to build a safe, healthy, and prosperous community where every Black baby can live to reach their full potential.
 
Infant mortality is defined as death that occurs before an infant’s first birthday. The infant mortality rate estimates the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 births. According to the U.S. Office of Minority Health, African American babies are more than twice as likely to die within their first year compared to White babies. While difficult to digest, these statistics tell the true story of the disadvantages African Americans face from the start.
 
Everyone should strive for optimal health by practicing good health habits, but if you are pregnant or may be pregnant in the future, your health habits affect the health of your babies. Eating healthy food, exercising regularly, making sure you’re getting essential nutrients like folic acid (which helps prevent birth defects), knowing your family health history, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, managing and preventing chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes, learning how to manage stress—these core health practices help to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy first year of your baby’s life. Expecting moms and moms of infants can count on AAHP for help putting these practices into action.
 
Since 1999, AAHP’s SMILE team has provided award-winning care and services for pregnant moms and moms of infants, including nurse case management, home visits, childbirth and breastfeeding classes, and more. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Montgomery County Stay at Home Orders, the SMILE Program mobilized to create opportunities for social interaction and community-building for pregnant moms who may feel overwhelmed and alone. The SMILE Program is often perceived as a haven, a family, and a school. Learn more about the SMILE program here and spread the word!
 
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Numerous studies have named obesity as the second-leading risk factor for severe sickness or death from COVID-19, with the top risk factor being “advanced age” (over 65). The link between obesity and chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers make obesity an epidemic in its own right. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 42% of American adults and 18% of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese. African Americans must address obesity prevalence in order to reduce health disparities. That need is now more critical than ever with COVID-19 in our midst.
 
Being homebound for long periods of time can result in getting less physical activity and eating more processed foods, inevitably leading to weight gain. Establishing and maintaining good eating habits and a regular exercise routine can help counter the threat of obesity-related health conditions and COVID-19. Adults should do the best they can to set a good example and emphasize the importance of a healthy lifestyle to the children and adolescents in their lives. As students settle into virtual classes at home, parents and caregivers should incorporate exercise and healthy eating into their “new normal.”
 
The following chart documents obesity rates by race and ethnicity, according to The State of Childhood Obesity, a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:
Healthcare workers and public health experts predict an uptick in COVID-19 infections and deaths during flu season, which is just around the corner. Losing weight, eating healthy, exercising, and building up the immune system provide the best protection against COVID-19. If you’re ready to start losing weight and getting healthy, join AAHP’s weight management plan. See the graphic under this article for more information.
 
September is Childhood Obesity Month. Find health and nutrition activity worksheets for kids here.
 
Learn more about healthy eating and nutrition at the following resources:
  • Produce for Better Health – a resource for busy parents, providing recipes, serving ideas, shopping advice, and creative ideas for incorporating more fruits and vegetables into the family diet.
  • My Plate – a website from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with information on how to create a personalized eating plan and balance diet with physical activity, including interactive learning tools for adults and children.
  • Nutrition Information – a website from the Department of Agriculture with links to a wealth of information on nutrition, food facts, healthy eating, physical activity, and food safety.
  • Manna Community Resources – an organization dedicated to ending hunger in Montgomery County through food distribution, education, and advocacy.
  • Montgomery County Food Council – an organization working to improve the environmental, economic, social, and nutritional health of Montgomery County, Maryland by making a positive impact on the local food system.
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The passing of beloved actor Chadwick Boseman from colon cancer at the age of 43 has shaken the African American community. The talent and spirit Boseman embodied with his portrayals of King T’Challah, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, and other icons inspired so many towards excellence. As we mourn, we also reflect on the value of life and of a life well-lived.
 
Anyone can get cancer. Half of American women and a third of American men will be diagnosed in their lifetime. African Americans have the highest incidence and mortality for most cancers compared to all other racial/ethnic groups. For colon cancer, which is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and the second most common cause of cancer-related death, the mortality rate for African Americans is 35% higher than that for White Americans. African Americans are twice as likely as White Americans to be diagnosed with colon cancer before the age of 50. A complex mix of biological, socioeconomic, behavioral, and genetic factors drive these statistics. Even though cancer can affect people of any age or health status, social determinants lead to health disparities that place African Americans squarely at the bottom.
 
AAHP answers that current reality by sharing our vision for the future. Imagine with us a future where every African American in Montgomery County:
  • has a colorectal cancer screening (colonoscopy) starting at age 45
  • has the intention and resources to eat a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • maintains a healthy weight
  • is physically active relative to their physical ability
  • avoids tobacco and drinks alcohol only in moderation (pertaining to residents of legal age)
If you share that vision, learn everything you can about preventing cancer and other chronic diseases and share that knowledge with others.
 
Sources:
Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance found in the blood. Although the body needs and naturally produces cholesterol, the foods we eat can add more good or bad cholesterol to our bodies. Too much bad cholesterol can clog the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Because there are no symptoms of having high cholesterol, it is important to get a blood test every four to six years to check your cholesterol levels. More than 102 million American adults over 20 have high cholesterol levels (220mg/dL), and more than 35 million are at high risk of heart disease. Seven percent of American children and youth between the ages of six and 19 have high cholesterol. Children over the age of two should start getting tested for high cholesterol if they are overweight or have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or other chronic diseases.
 
Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol can be prevented and managed by adopting a healthy lifestyle and/or with medication. More than 55% of adults in the U.S. take medication for high cholesterol.
 
September is National Cholesterol Education Month. Observe by scheduling an appointment or making a date to get your cholesterol checked.
 
Sources:

Health Hint

If you want to limit screen time for your child but still want to keep them occupied and entertained, try audiobooks. Perfect for travel, bedtime, and chores, audiobooks can stimulate your child’s imagination and help them learn how to listen more attentively. Families can also listen to audiobooks together as a bonding activity.
 
Sources:

In this informative video from Pfizer, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall discusses the warning signs of colorectal cancer and a young Black woman details her experience being diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the age of 31:

Featured Recipe

INGREDIENTS
  • ¼ cup double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1½ tsp. ground coriander
  • 1½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium head of green or savoy cabbage (about 2 lb. total)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped dill, parsley, or cilantro
  • Full-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream (for serving)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Mix tomato paste, garlic, coriander, cumin, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.
  2. Cut cabbage in half through core. Cut each half through core into 4 wedges.
  3. Heat ¼ cup oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Working in batches if needed, add cabbage to pan cut side down and season with salt. Cook, turning occasionally, until lightly charred, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer cabbage to a plate.
  4. Pour remaining ¼ cup oil into skillet. Add spiced tomato paste and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until tomato paste begins to split and slightly darken, 2–3 minutes. Pour in enough water to come halfway up sides of pan (about 1½ cups), season with salt, and bring to a simmer. Nestle cabbage wedges back into skillet (they should have shrunk while browning; a bit of overlap is okay). Transfer cabbage to oven and bake, uncovered and turning wedges halfway through, until very tender, liquid is mostly evaporated, and cabbage is caramelized around the edges, 40–50 minutes.
  5. Scatter dill over cabbage. Serve with yogurt alongside.
 
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Every November, AAHP observes American Diabetes Month to promote awareness of diabetes and our work to help Black Montgomery County residents manage and prevent diabetes. More than 34 million Americans live with diabetes, with African Americans facing higher risks of death and serious health complications from diabetes compared to White Americans. AAHP’s Diabetes/Heart Health focus area gives hope and resources to diabetics (and prediabetics) who wish to take control of their health by making positive lifestyle changes.
 
This American Diabetes Month, AAHP challenges you to take AT LEAST one of the following actions to spread awareness of diabetes and its impact:
  • Learn more about AAHP’s services and programs for diabetes education, prevention and management by visiting AAHP’s website.
  • Attend a Health Promotion (formerly called Chronic Disease Management) class on zoom. Check out AAHP’s calendar to see the class schedule, and click on the Zoom link for each class to register and attend.
  • Sign up for dMeetings, AAHP’s online diabetes education classes.
  • Sign up for AAHP’s new Diabetes Prevention Program (see more info below).
  • Share a post about diabetes from AAHP’s FacebookInstagram, or Twitter pages.
If you are prediabetic or at risk for developing diabetes, join AAHP’s new Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Led by the Centers for Disease Control, the program guides participants through lifestyle changes that can help prevent Type 2 diabetes. Learn more:
Source: www.diabetes.org

Most people understand that smoking can lead to lung cancer. In fact, according to the CDC, smoking causes roughly 90% of all lung cancer deaths. However, despite being highly preventable, lung cancer kills around 146,000 Americans each year. But what is the reality behind those numbers? Consider these five lesser-known facts:

  1. Lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined. 
  2. African American men have the highest rates of lung cancer in the U.S., with an incidence rate 30% higher than for White men. Both African American women and men are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer in spite of lower smoking rates and less exposure to cigarette smoke compared to White Americans. 
  3. Because lung cancer screening comes with health risks, lung cancer screening is recommended only for people who have a history of heavy smoking, and currently smoke or recently quit within the past 15 years, and are between the ages of 55 and 80.
  4. People who live and spend a great deal of time around smokers increase their lung cancer risk as much as 20-30% through secondhand smoke.
  5. More than half of lung cancer patients die within one year of diagnosis.

For information and resources to help you or a loved one stop smoking, visit Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services online or call 240-777-1222. 

Life continually throws at us unexpected challenges. At times, the pace of life and our various struggles overwhelm us. How we respond in these moments impacts our health more than most people may realize. We must protect our physical and mental health by focusing on building emotional resilience and managing stress in healthy and productive ways.
 
Now, more than ever, it’s important to learn and practice good stress management. Learn breathing techniques that can help you relax and lower your blood pressure. Pray, meditate, and practice gratitude as best as you can according to your faith. Exercise regularly to fight depression, manage your weight, and prevent chronic disease. Consider professional therapy and self-care coaching. These health practices can help you keep your mind and your body strong.
 
On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you respond to stress in harmful ways such as drinking alcohol in excess, using drugs, or overeating, your body and your mind will take a hit. Chronic stress keeps our cortisol (stress hormone) levels elevated, which can impair immune function, increase the risk for chronic disease, and make it harder to lose weight. Stress can exacerbate a host of health issues, including heart disease (leading to strokes and heart attacks), preterm labor, mental illness, and substance abuse.
 
While it’s almost impossible for most people to have the best response to stress 100% of the time, we can do the best we can, one decision at a time.

Back to School Facts and Stats

  • Over 70% of young people who took a screen at mhascreening.org between April and July 2020 mentioned loneliness and isolation as the main things contributing to their struggles. Learn more about #CopingDuringCOVID at mhanational.org/backtoschool.
  • Young people continue to be disproportionately affected by COVID19 related mental health issues. Roughly 9 in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe depression and 8 in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe #anxiety. Learn more at mhanational.org/backtoschool. #BackToSchool2020
  • Chronic loneliness, which many of us are feeling these days due to COVID19, can translate to poor sleep, high blood pressure, greater risk of suicidal ideation, and even alcohol and drug use. Learn more about #CopingDuringCOVID at mhanational.org/backtoschool. #BackToSchool2020
  • If your kid or teen seems to be struggling, and it persists, something more serious might be going on. Get screened for mental health at MHAscreening.org. #BackToSchool2020
  • Since March of 2020, 83% of 11-to-17-year-olds screened positive or at-risk for #anxiety at MHAscreening. org, and 91% screened positive or at-risk for #depression. Learn more at mhanational.org/backtoschool. #BackToSchool2020 #CopingDuringCOVID
  • 61% of teachers said their jobs were always or often stressful and 58% said they had poor mental health due to stress. Debates over reopening and safety concerns are making teachers’ mental health worse. Learn more at mhanational.org/backtoschool.
#CopingDuringCOVID #BackToSchool2020 

AAHP’s SMILE Program’s New Digital Resources

In support of Black Montgomery County moms and their families, AAHP is excited to introduce a series of videos and online tools on pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding, and more. Visit AAHP’s website to see the coming videos on pregnancy through the first year of life.
 
Check out the SMILE program’s childhood development classes, featuring presentations by SMILE nurse case managers. The more moms learn and participate in SMILE activities, the more SMILE bucks they can cash in for giveaways and prizes like pacifiers, books, car seats, and more. The next class will be held on November 20 at 1pm. Check the calendar for later dates. Learn more about the SMILE bucks program here.

Health Hint

Although social distancing remains in effect for Thanksgiving, putting a twist on your videochat festivities can offer new ways to make special memories. Research creative celebration ideas, such as planning a family menu and cooking together while videochatting. Coordinate a recipe swap and cook-off. Take a “Zoom 2020 Family Photo.” Have a centerpiece contest. Creativity is key in helping us cherish special times with loved ones even during difficult times.

Featured Video

This animated video from TedEX explains how yoga’s combination of movement and posture, breathing techniques, and spiritual contemplation can benefit one’s health:

Featured Recipe: Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Pudding

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The African American Health Program is funded and administered by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services and implemented by McFarland & Associates, Inc.
1401 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
(240) 777-1833
info@aahpmontgomerycounty.org
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