03/04/2013 10:50 am ET Updated May 04, 2013

Sharpton and Walcott to Tackle Health Disparities in New York City

The health disparities in New York State are staggering according to the 2012 New York State Minority Health Surveillance Report. Hispanics in New York State had the highest percentage of poor or fair health when compared with other ethnic groups. African-Americans had the highest rates of prostate cancer incidence, female breast cancer mortality, and diabetes hospitalization. A recent article in the American Journal of Medicine by Florida Atlantic University Professor, Dr. Charles Hennekens, stated that obesity is quickly catching up to cigarette smoking as the number one cause of premature deaths in the world.

In response to these needs, Education for a Better America (EBA) will partner with the National Action Network (NAN) and the New York City Department of Education on a health and wellness initiative that will focus on health, education and an active lifestyle. NAN President Reverend Al Sharpton, New York City Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott, EBA Board President Dominique Sharpton, and health experts in New York City will tour public schools in all five city's boroughs with special assemblies on education, health and wellness. It will start on March 22 at 3:00 p.m. in Brooklyn at Magnet School of Math, Science, and Design Technology. The program will include presentations and literature for parents and students that focus on issues related to nutrition, leading a healthy lifestyle and education.

The initiative will serve as a complement to programs health-based programs that the New York City Department of Education already has in place, such as the School Wellness Council Grants that were given to 125 schools last year that we meant to encourage schools to "develop practical and innovative ways to address health education, physical education, physical activity, school nutrition, mental health and other wellness-related programs for students, their families, and the entire school community."

Reverend Al Sharpton, arguably the most influential African-American in the United States not named Obama, has lost a tremendous amount of weight through a strict diet and exercise. EBA's Health and Wellness Initiative began with him hosting free exercise classes along with Chris Sainsbury Fitness at the National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. Various health and wellness forums were held where health experts lectured about major health challenges and illness prevention, passed out literature on nutrition, disease prevention and healthy eating tips. Health screenings on high blood pressure, diabetes and glucose were made available, as well as Body Mass Index testing.

The expansion of EBA's initiative to cities all over the United States was announced on January 15 in Washington D.C. at a Martin Luther King Day Luncheon hosted by EBA and NAN. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and Martin Luther King III were among the speakers at the event. EBA and NAN will work with school, churches, and community organizations to educate communities about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. The initiative will be a 10 city healthy living program geared towards low-income and minority school children and their parents.