To the Editor:
Saturday’s article “Programs Tackle Diabetes Prevention In Black, Hispanic Youth As Cases Surge,” suggests that a “can-do” attitude is relevant to sustaining health and combating the increase of diabetes rates among Hispanic and Black youth. A “can-do” attitude is characterized as an eager willingness to accept and meet challenges; however, one’s willingness for health change is only as good as the system which can sustain one’s change. In this case, the system of institutional racism is a perpetual structure in the United States which has made it difficult for families like the Garcia’s and many other minority groups to maintain healthy lifestyles.
Institutional racism has contributed to persistent disparities in stable housing, transportation, and access to nutritious food. Growing up in Maryland, this story hits close to home. Despite having the privilege of living in one of the richest African-American communities in the United States, where I personally had access to fresh produce, transportation, and quality health care, not all in my community had these benefits. This was especially evident when working and living in neighboring communities, such as Baltimore City, where many residents disproportionately experience the negative effects of historical policies which have fostered systemic inequalities.
With this perspective, I now understand that I was able to achieve wellness, simply because I had access to resources to help me do so. Furthermore, as a public health professional, I truly believe all families desire good health, wealth, and wellbeing. Families of color in particular face unique challenges, and irrespective of willingness and desire, behavior change will not sustain without reliable tools, resources, and conditions. In addition to interventions being implemented at ASU, policy which dismantles health disparities is even more critical.
Oriyomi Dawodu, MS
Graduate Research Assistant
Doctor of Public Health Student, Maternal and Child Health
The University of Arizona Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health