On Blacks and Fat: Hip-Hop H.E.A.L.S.
We spoke to Dr. Olajide Williams, who uses rap music to combat obesity among African Americans.
We know access is an important barrier as well. Not only is cost prohibitive, but access to these healthy foods is also prohibitive in a lot of black communities. There are areas that we refer to as food deserts, for example, where among the bodegas and fast-food restaurants, you might be lucky to find one store that sells fruits and vegetables. So they have to work harder in these communities to find healthier foods that are also more expensive.
And then you have other factors that include things related to cost. For example, if a family has a very limited budget and that mother needs to feed four kids, the question is, "Do I buy a couple of pounds of lettuce or go to a fast-food restaurant and spend $5 getting five 'dollar meals' for the kids?" And it just so happens that fast food has the highest caloric density and lowest food value.
TR: When it comes to African Americans and obesity, what is the biggest myth or misunderstanding?
OW: That's a difficult question, but while I believe in personal responsibility -- and I do truly believe in personal responsibility -- I think that people are too quick to judge and too quick to dismiss communities as being irresponsible, without really examining the playing field.
Yes, there are certainly those who are not as personally responsible as they should be, but the problem is painting an entire community with the same brush -- because there are many in the African-American community who struggle to do the right thing, but the playing field is so uneven that it's really hard for them to sustain the gains that they might make, and regression is much more common just as a result of the great odds that they have to deal with just to try to be healthy.
TR: If you could make just one suggestion for people to implement in their daily lives with respect to weight and health, what would it be?