Tackling Unhealthy Food and Drug Use
When it comes to thinking critically about what needs to be done to better the black community, we must first begin to address our coping mechanisms, our vices, the things that we use to make us feel better now…that only make us sick later. We must also reflect on the popularity of these vices, whether it be popular food, popular drugs, or popular trends. And finally, we must consider the importance of choosing better. Thinking critically about what we ingest dictates how long we live, how we feel during the time that we do, and dictates how our loved ones chose to live as well. Remember, birds of a feather flock together, so be the first of your generation to change the narrative and make the decisions that will better your today and tomorrow, as well as the today and tomorrow of the generations to come.
Now, let’s explore.
Coping Mechanisms, Vices, and Sickness
Discrimination and racial inequality stand at the base of the central issues faced by the African American community. Social factors such as “unemployment, living in poverty, not owning a home, and cost-prohibitive effects of trying to see an MD” are several examples of what happens as a result of racial inequality. Dealing with racial inequality and the social factors that result from it puts a great amount of stress on members of the black community, which in turn gives rise to health issues. Pfizer reports that “compared to their white counterparts, African Americans are generally at higher risk for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, according to the Office of Minority Health, part of the Department for Health and Human Services.” These long-standing issues, induced by stress, as well as poor decisions made because of said stress, not only take a physical health toll on the community but also a mental one. According to a Pfizer report, “blacks are 20% more likely to report psychological distress and 50% less likely to receive counseling or mental health treatment due to the aforementioned underlying socioeconomic factors.”
Now, let’s look more critically at a few of the trends that contribute to our community’s sickness.
Healthy and Unhealthy Food
Culturally, certain food items have been popularized, even more now, with the use of social media. Popular social media trends like the Chip Challenge, where someone eats an extremely hot Paqui Chip and waits as long as they can to drink something to alleviate themselves from the pain, have in some situations resulted in intense stomach pain and seizures. Other unhealthy foods like Hot Cheetos and Takis have also caused some young individuals to experience stomach erosion and others to have their gallbladders removed. When observing the popularity of these trends and foods, and the power social media holds, just imagine the impact that popularizing fruit, oats, salads or any healthy food would have on black communities. Luckily, there has been a trend of healthier eating and even healthier living, which are both beginning to pave the way for communities to be more informed and make healthier choices. Influencers like Whitney Miner (who can be found on Instagram @eatplantsprosper), a vegan nutritionist, share their vegan recipes, in hopes of enriching communities and making more people aware of what they ingest. Likewise, Dietitian and nutritionist Marisa Moore (found on Instagram @marisamoore) invests her time in providing resources to help inform women about “simple, approachable recipes to help women prevent chronic disease.”
The popularity of cigarettes has luckily decreased among the youth community, according to a study done by the University of Michigan which showed that “youth smoking dropped to an all-time low of 2.3 % in 2021.” While this is true for cigarettes, there is still a war to be fought against the use of e-cigarettes and vapes, which have become more popular. Results from the Annual National Youth Tobacco Survey say that “in 2022, about 1 and 10 or more than 2.5 million U.S. middle and high school students currently used e-cigarettes (past 30 days).” Fortunately, campaigns like Truth, a youth smoking prevention public education campaign, have been around for 24 years fighting against cigarette and, more recently, vape use. While it is still an ongoing battle, campaigns like this bring communities closer to tobacco-free living.
Now that we have a better idea of what stands against our community, it is time to reflect on that information and figure out where we want to go from here. We have resources, like influencers from social media, campaigns, and organizations that want to help inform communities and positively contribute to change. So now all that it comes down to is whether or not we will choose to change.
Yes, there are an array of forces standing against our community, but we must do what we can to choose better for ourselves and our community.
Diaz, A. (2022, September 20). Experts warn against the #onechipchallenge allegedly sending kids to the hospital. New York Post. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://nypost.com/2022/09/19/experts-warn-against-the-onechipchallenge/amp/
Hafner, J. (2018, July 25). Hot Cheetos and Takis under fire after snacking teen needs gallbladder removal. USA Today. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2018/07/24/hot-cheetos-takis-blamed-after-teen-girl-needs-gallbladder-removed/825823002/
Initiative, T. (2022, January 10). Smoking rates decline steeply in teens in 2021. Truth Initiative. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/traditional-tobacco-products/smoking-rates-decline-steeply-teens-2021
Lutz, R. (2022). Health Disparities Among African Americans. Pfizer. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.pfizer.com/news/articles/health_disparities_among_african_americans#:~:text=Compared%20to%20their%20white%20counterparts,for%20Health%20and%20Human%20Services
Phillips, P. (2020, April 17). Snacks more dangerous than Flamin’ hot Cheetos. Complex. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://amp.www.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/11/snacks-more-dangerous-than-flamin-hot-cheetos/
Products, C. for T. (2022). Results from the annual National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/youth-and-tobacco/results-annual-national-youth-tobacco-survey
Salomon, S. H. (2020, November 12). 6 black influencers to follow for healthy-eating inspiration. EverydayHealth.com. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/black-influencers-to-follow-for-healthy-eating-inspiration/