Phylicia Rashad’s Mission

Most people have not heard of PAD. But it's her goal to change that.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Given her family history, Rashad takes this advice seriously. “My father and his people were from Louisiana, my mother from South Carolina, and you know what that means in terms of food,” says Rashad. “I love Southern cooking, but in general, I eat differently. I learned a lot working with dancers, like my sister, Debbie. I observed how they ate and how they took care of their bodies and tried to copy them. I eat a lot of clean, simple food mainly protein and vegetables, and I try and prepare my food myself.

She also exercises regularly, though she’s been slowed in recent months by a knee injury. Rashad is careful about her health because it’s the right thing to do, she says, not because she’s scared of her family history. “I don’t go around with fear and worry. That does not promote good health,” she says. “I don’t have diabetes, I don’t have cardiovascular problems and I don’t live in the negative. It’s not about being afraid; it’s about being aware.”

In the coming weeks, Rashad will travel to cities where PAD is most common. According to research conducted by the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF), these “hot spots,” in order of ranking, include Detroit, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis, Memphis, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Miami.

“I’m visiting PAD hot spots to tell people about my family’s health struggles and educate them about the risks and what symptoms to look out for,” says Rashad. “I hope my efforts help people begin to think of peripheral artery disease as a cardiovascular event that needs immediate and ongoing treatment.”

Linda Villarosa is a regular contributor to The Root.