01/27/2012 06:14 pm ET Updated Mar 28, 2012

Health First! The Black Woman's Wellness Guide Would Make the Perfect Gift

If you are searching for a gift for an African American woman for Valentine's Day, a birthday, or for no other reason than "because", may I suggest you consider purchasing Health First: The Black Woman's Wellness guide.

Co-authored by Eleanor Hinton Hoytt and Hilary Beard, it is a holistic path to wellness--mind, body, and soul.

"This book really is about who we are, how we are, and what we know about black women--their stories, their pain, and their joys," Hoytt said.

"Health First" combines startling statistics and personal testimonies in order to send the clarion call that African American women must fight through the micro challenges of living, such as job, marriage, divorce, child rearing, etc., to reach the macro commitment to love themselves in such a way that will allow for healthy choices.

"In our quest to be all we can be, many of us labor under these very complex and conflicting roles that we play. And we often don't reveal the truth that we may be hurting," Hoytt said.

As I read "Health First" parts were akin to reading a graphic novel that compelled me to put down so that I could continue. To read the results of one study that projected "an estimated 50 percent of black females born in the year 2000 and beyond will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime" is daunting.

But this data is easier to digest when one considers other statistics from the book:

• 80 percent of black women are overweight or obese
• 45 percent of black women suffer from high blood pressure
• 46 percent of black women have high cholesterol
• 55 percent of black women are inactive.

During my own nonscientific research I made a startling discovery. Last year I asked my largely African American congregation to raise their hand if they or someone close to them had type 2 diabetes and every hand went up.

The section on mental health really captured the books overall objectives. Mental health remains stigmatized in the society at-large and is exacerbated in the African American community.

According to the findings in "Health First" only seven percent of African American women receive treatment for mental health. Concerns about their family, their career, being perceived as "crazy," shame, and the perception of being weak all play into the reasons why African American women do not receive the help they need.

Hoytt contends that acceptance--not just for mental health but for all areas of wellness--is key. It unlocks the door that leads to making better choices about how one is to live.

The African American mother tired from a long workday, who habitually opts for the fast-food drive-thru, or a quick dinner with a foundation based on processed food does not factor the health implications of that decision nor does she factor that she validates corporate marketing stratgies.

In low-income communities of all colors, it is invariably easier to locate a fast food establishment than it is to purchase fresh produce.

But "Health First" offers a way to think differently. Each chapter begins with a testimony of hope, African American women who found a way to address their challenges from health to domestic violence by breaking what is too often a cycle of pain in order to make better decisions about their lives.

Hoytt contends if African American women are to move from being reactive to proactive they can ill-afford to ignore the factors that negatively impact their wellness. "African American women must take decisive action to be about more than their illness or their pain," she said.

This would indeed be a great gift for someone.

"Health First" can be purchased on Amazon beginning February 1.

Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist. He is the author of the Forthcoming book: '1963: The of Hope and Hostility.' Email him at or visit the website