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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: