THE BLOG

5 Urgent Ways to Make Black Health Matter

04/13/2015 03:03 pm ET | Updated Jun 13, 2015
John Foxx via Getty Images

As the media continues to reveal more truth on the systematic injustice and devastation of our community, we should all take a moment to breath.

No, not just to sigh or not stay awake on the struggle -- but to check in with our health.

Our hearts are aching and are backs are breaking. The stress has historically impacted us mentally and physically then as it does now. We cannot wait. Proper focus on health care is essential to our survival and triumph. We can't make black lives matter if we don't make our health matter.

Here are five powerful ways I personally believe we can help make black health matter for all of our lives. It's really time for us to seriously start taking our health back in order to strengthen the movement -- mind, body, and soul.

1. Don't neglect getting regular medical check-ups.

The mistrust is historically real, but the consequences are not worth it. Our numbers are extremely low when it comes to getting routine inspections from health physicians and this has led to us leading in many higher rates for stroke and heart disease. It is time to stop putting all of our faith in herbal medicine that has not been approved by the CDC and seek real clinical evaluation. It has become a cultural stigma for far too long that as we carry most of our grievances on our back -- health care should not be one.

2. Understand that sexual health is just as important.

We are not invincible. It only takes one time and until there is a cure for HIV/AIDS and every other STD, safe sex will forever remain relevant. It's not a "gay disease" or simply a promiscuous one given the high rates that are showing strong new cases in our community. It's time we made it mandatory in our communities that condoms become more accessible for young adults and sincere sex education for women's reproductive health be facilitated as well. Too many young and gifted lives are leaving our community too soon due to ignorance. Break the cycle: Get tested often and tell a friend.

3. Get serious about mental wellness.

We are human, and we cry when times get rough. Depression is real and suicide exists in our community more than we want to believe. Stop telling young black men not to show emotions and women to keep a strong front at all times. Buried beneath our facades of endless confidence and bulletproof nonchalant attitudes is a collection of pain and hurt resisting us to show it. Let's start talking more about our feelings, seeking counseling from professionals and start actively searching for healing.

4. Adequately inform yourself about proper nutrition.

It's time to cut back on our cultural eating habits and face the heat in the kitchen. Salt is killing us and so is the extreme oil we are cooking with as well. The urban legends on how our ancestry was able to sustain such a diet are irrelevant given the way food is processed and packaged today. More black adults are overweight and obese than they are fit and our stigmas to incorporate healthier foods come from our mindset. Whether it is eating a kale salad or supporting popular black endorsed natural beverages, such as TEAse, we need start letting go of the toxic foods that harm us. And no quick detox is going to fix that. Only a balanced lifestyle that incorporates being physically active and eating more wholesome does.

5. Advocate for more diversity in the medical/health care profession.

Seeing is truly believing. Part of the reason why we have such a hesitation to seek outside council on our health is because most of the professionals available do not look like us. There is a huge deficit of black clinicians around and such a lack of education is harming us indefinitely. It's time to start demanding and encouraging more diversity in our health care just as hardcore as we do for such inclusion in government, education, and entertainment. Our livelihood is on the brink of destruction if we don't get serious about the next generation of black doctors, physicians, and scientists. Let's start fighting for their advancement in the medical field immediately.

Overall, I began to realize that my life was not promised after I recognized the true impact that stress and ignoring overall wellness had on me when focusing on the present issues we face. But eventually, I understood that fighting for black health progress is not mutually exclusive from the overall fight for making black lives matter. In fact, it might just be as pivotal to the overall movement as systematic equal opportunity and justice. There is a political barrier to health that many of us ignore because we are too busy invested in demonstrations and social unrest to address it.

However, if we are to reach the level of impact and victory we are rightfully committed to, we much take care of our minds, bodies and souls. We cannot expect a new reality if we are still holding on to the outdated ignorance and stubbornness of the past. Our humanity lies first in our health and we must ensure its survival for many years to come.

Perhaps the most powerful way you can ensure black lives matter to all is if you fully empower and inform yourself of ways to properly take care of yours.

#BlackLivesMatter indeed -- but #BlackHealthMatters, too.