The Ability Lies Within Each of Us

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The Ability Lies within Each of Us

The following reflects solely the views and opinions of the author, Amina L. Gilyard, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of any organization with which the author is affiliated.

I admit it. I once thought that finding solutions to our community's health issues was impossible. But over time and through experience and faith, I have learned that each of us holds the key to improving our health status. Trying to reverse statistical trends can be overwhelming, complex, and time consuming, but it is by no means impossible. By focusing our efforts on specific disease disparities, the contributing factors to such disparities, and barriers to change, we can make a difference.


Before setting out on our individual crusades to improve the health status of our community, let's understand how we got to this point. Social, environmental, cultural, and economic factors all play a role in the overall differences in health status. At the most basic level, we know that minorities in general are more likely to be uninsured, live in poverty, have poor communication with their doctors, and use less preventive health care than non-minorities. These factors, though not exclusively, contribute to the undesirable health outcomes we see in our communities.


1)      African Americans suffer the most cancer deaths overall and have the highest rates of prostate, colorectal, and lung cancers

2)      About 71.7% of black men and 78% of black women are overweight or obese

3)      3.7 million African Americans aged 20 years or older have diabetes


In the African-American population, the leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Obesity is a significant risk factor for the development of three of the leading causes of death:  heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. There are also many other diseases that disproportionately affect our community, including HIV/AIDS and other STDs as well as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. As disheartening as the facts are, it is important to know that for the most part these diseases are preventable or manageable with the proper medical care!


You don't have to be professionally trained to make a difference in the health status of your community. Equipped with accurate knowledge and the right tools, I am certain that every one of us can become an agent of change! First, decide on your "cause." Is there a specific disease or age group that interests you? Next, decide if you are better suited to be an educator, an advocate, or play another role. When trying to improve the health status of a community, individuals that have strengths in health policy and other areas are just as crucial as those that work one-on-one with community members. Then find organizations in your community that can help you get started. Below are credible organizations that can serve as a resource to you, listed by disease. If you don't find what you are looking for, check out the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities:

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
American Diabetes Association
Lupus Foundation of America
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
National Stroke Association
The American Cancer Society

Now go out there and fight the good fight!



To learn more about Amina and her platform as Miss Black DC USA 2012, visit For more information about the Miss Black USA organization, please visit


HealthReform.Gov: Health Disparities- A Case for Closing the Gap
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Disparities Experienced by Black or African Americans --- United States
American Diabetes Association: Living with Diabetes- African-Americans & Complications
National Cancer Institute: Cancer Health Disparities
The Office of Minority Health: Obesity & African Americans
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: HIV among African-Americans
American Academy of Family Physicians: Underserved Populations Struggle with Poverty, Disparities in Health Care
Office of Minority Health & Health Disparities: Black of African American Populations

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