by Gretchen Schisla
I take the freedom to walk and move around as a given in my everyday life. But what if it hurt to just get out of bed? How depressing would it be to be kept homebound — and unable to perform simple tasks because of debilitating pain and immobile joints?
We are quickly becoming a nation of the disabled — with shocking rates of obesity, crippling arthritis and lack of physical activity. I recently attended a powerful event called “Movement is Life” — and learned about a group that focuses on addressing arthritis and musculoskeletal health disparities in African American and Hispanic women.
By promoting physical mobility, the Movement is Life coalition seeks to improve quality of life and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in muscle and joint health. A “health disparity” generally refers to a higher burden of illness, injury, disability, or mortality – experienced by one population group relative to another group. These inequalities are further demonstrated by the lack of access to healthcare and education across different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
We all face daily challenges, but dealing with a lack of mobility and chronic pain should not be happening in a large percentage of our population. Here are some interesting facts:
Women are living longer, but in poorer health due to arthritis and obesity.
Being only 10 pounds overweight increases the force on the knee by 30-60 pounds with each step.
In the US, where obesity ranks as the second leading cause of preventable deaths, 80% of African American women and nearly 74% of Hispanic men are either overweight or obese, which speeds the onset of arthritis. It affects one in five Americans, and is the single, greatest cause of chronic pain and disability.
Medical costs associated with obesity are estimated to be $147 billion a year.
Our economy loses an estimated $309 billion per year due to the direct and indirect costs of healthcare disparities.
African American and Hispanic women are often caught in a vicious cycle centered around movement. Joint pain limits mobility and prevents them from getting adequate physical activity. This, in turn, leads to obesity and increased pressure on the joints, which then circles back to pain. Movement is the key to ending this cycle.
The Start Moving Start Living video highlighted at the event includes a series of interviews with people who are caught in a vicious cycle of dealing with obesity, lack of mobility and chronic pain. These takeaways resonated with me:
- When a doctor sees their patient, discussing that patient’s obesity is like talking about the elephant in the room. Some physicians believe that obesity should be addressed as a diagnosis. How can they open up a dialogue with their patients?
- In many ethnic cultures, food is a major part daily life. How can these traditional foods be made healthier?
- Rather than focusing on disease care and pushing medicines, why can’t we put the emphasis on prevention through a healthy diet?
- We’re eating diets that create inferior health. For example, it's less expensive to order a $5 burger and fries meal than a $7 salad — people will most often choose the cheaper option. How can we translate the knowledge of what we should be eating into our daily lives?
In order to have good health, we ALL need access to:
- High-quality education (when you know better, you do better)
- Health insurance
- Nutritious food
- Clean water and non-polluted air
- Decent and safe housing
- Safe neighborhoods and parks to walk in and places to move and exercise
- Affordable, reliable public transportation
Addressing these disparities in both health and healthcare is not only important from a social justice standpoint, but to help all people reach their highest level of health.
I invite you to take a few minutes out of your day to watch this video. I think you'll be inspired.