As an immigrant, one initially experiences multiple barriers: language differences, cultural shock, limited career path, and sometimes, most importantly, is access to health care.
Over a hundred years ago, Dr. Booker T. Washington proposed the idea of observing a week in April to focus on minority health. When Dr. Washington started this idea in 1915, the call was for schools, health departments and businesses of influential organizations to promote health care equality to close the gap of disparity among the African- American population.
Since then, various other race and ethnic groups have experienced their own difficulties, disparities, and inequalities. Based on Modern Medicine Network statistics, Hispanic populations suffer a greater risk of cervical cancer, a higher chance of diabetes and obesity, and more frequent hospitalizations from asthma, even for little children. South Pacific Islanders have an increase in occurrences of breast, gastric, ovarian, and lung cancers, leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. African American populations have higher incidences of hypertension, obesity and cardiovascular disease, all of which seemed to be tied together since one is a risk factor to another.
Again, these disparities of higher incidents of diseases in specific populations seem to have a common thread: a lack of preventative health care. As said before, limited access to health care appears to be the main driving-force creating the disparity between different groups of populations. Fixing the system of limited health care for some seems like a goal that cannot be won. That may be true in some sense. We may not be able to solve the larger disparity, but we can change our own personal situations and families first. This starts the ripple effect of improving our community and beyond.
In honor of continuing the desire of Dr. Washington and in promoting the health of minority ethnic groups, the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed this year to improve our health by increasing physical activities.
Obesity, cardiovascular disease and even cancer seem to all have a common prevention – Let’s Get Moving!
Not the kind of moving where we move out of this changing Michigan weather, but increasing our physical activities. There are many barriers to improving our physical activities such as working long hours at a job causing fatigue, depression causing a lack of motivation, chronic illness or joint pain causing a fear of pain to move. Of course, weather plays a huge factor by giving us an unfriendly winter when even something as simple as walking becomes difficult and unpleasant.
However, unless it seems like an impossible battle to fight, it wouldn’t be called fighting at all. So, let’s fight. Let’s fight for our health and our bodies. Let’s fight for our ethnicity and culture. Dr. Washington spoke of his people and all people: “Without health and long life, all else fails.”
So, let’s start moving just a little more than before, whether it is merely parking further away when shopping so that you have to walk a bit longer, taking the stairs instead of elevators, or going on a walk around the yard with your kids. It starts small, but it has the potential to grow big if we fight for it.
Studies reported in the Journal of American Physician Assistant show that even just 150 minutes of exercise a week can reduce mortality and morbidities especially after someone has gone through cancer. That means a person who has experienced cancer, and now exercises, will be less likely to have the cancer return.
That is only 30 minutes of exercise five times per week. 30 minutes can go by very fast especially if you are having fun with your exercise buddy. This can be another opportunity to develop deeper friendships or get to know your neighbors better. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, your health care providers will be more than happy to discuss your own tailored regime of exercise and physical activities that would benefit you. It is a dream for a health care provider to hear, “I want to fight for my health with physical activity.”
As an immigrant myself who has known the hardships of health care; I can honestly say that is my dream. My name is Soomin Han and I am a Physician Assistant practicing family/internal medicine at Family Health Care. My goal is to have my patients and my community know that I care and I am their biggest cheerleader in fighting for their health.