Dr. Harold Hutson (Courtesy photo)

“Of all of the forms of inequality, justice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.” Martin Luther King Jr.  – March 25,1966

Long after Martin Luther King made this statement, the inequality in healthcare for African Americans continue to remain an issue in our communities.

For example, according to the Office of Minority Health, compared to the general population, African Americans are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and HIV/AIDS. Though African Americans make up 12% of the US population, African Americans make up 33% of all kidney dialysis patients.

All of these health disparities are worsened by poverty, income inequality, food insecurity (and food deserts), lack of safe and affordable housing, safe open spaces, access to medical care, and access to good quality medical care.

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Historically in America, African American churches have been a long-standing source of safety, strength, and support for the African American community, in modern times, especially during the Civil Rights Movement. To date, African American churches have been underutilized as an important and essential partner for improving the health and wellbeing in the Black community.

By reaching out to faith-based leaders of the African American community, I believe we can improve the health of the congregation, which will further lead to improving the health of our coverall community.

By getting the faithful to walk, we improve their overall health. By getting the faithful to discontinue eating highly processed foods, we likely prevent the development of type -2 diabetes. If the type 2 diabetes is diagnosed early, we may be able to control it by diet alone, without the use of diabetic medications including insulin.

By faith-based leaders educating the congregation to eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, while decreasing the ingestion of salty foods, we lower the development of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in our community.

Further, by faith-based leaders focusing on lifestyle changes such as decreasing smoking, alcohol, eating less red meat, food dyes, dairy products and more, we can lower the community risk of some cancers. According to the American Cancer Society approximately 40% of all cancers in our community may be preventable.

As a physician with a Lifestyle Medicine Practice, I continue to work with leaders of the faith-based South-Central Community to improve their health. These health improvements were noted by the pastor’s congregation. I recently gave a presentation on “African Americans and Cardiovascular Disease,” which was well received by members of the faith-based community.

At present I am partnering with Mount Hebron Missionary Baptist Church in Compton for a Community Wellness Event sponsored by their wellness ministry for January 2024. By partnering with members of the faith-based community, and getting the congregation to make healthy choices, together we can improve the overall health of our community. It’s not just about what the doctor recommends and advises, it’s also about educating and empowering the patients to control their own health.

As a board member of Between Hope and Humanity, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, I work towards strengthening my outreach to high risk communities through its Community Engagement division, which cultivates relationship with faith-based ministries and senior centers of South Los Angeles and Compton. These areas have been hardest hit over the years by an influx of food deserts in poor communities.

Food deserts contribute largely to poor eating habits which eventually result in poor health conditions. Lack of access to nearby supermarkets and large grocery stores, make it difficult for low income families to prepare healthy meals. Having limited access to quality produce and a variety of fresh vegetables creates disparities.

As a lifestyle medicine practitioner, my life’s work is dedicated to improving health conditions through increased awareness. Inasmuch it explains why my expertise in this area continues to bring urgent attention to life changing health conditions that debilitate African Americans.

Positive change can happen by progressively educating, training, and engaging the public on ways to effectively reverse negative health conditions that can start early in life. When left unattended to, it can profoundly change one’s quality of living for lifetime. I am committed to helping communities live healthier.

Dr. Harold Hutson has lent his medical and administrative expertise to hospitals in Los Angeles, Boston and Nashville, Tennessee during the last 40+ years. A board certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician, he is also certified in emergency medicine and trained in family medicine. In addition, he is the author of 75 medical publications and articles.

 The Rev. Dr. Brenda Maull contributed to this editorial.