Some say money can buy healthiness, but it looks like Prince George’s County just proved that notion wrong.
The country’s most affluent African American population is the fattest county in Maryland. According to Prince George County’s Health Improvement Plan, the county has a 69 percent obesity rate, which increased to 70 percent just last year. Additionally, blacks’ obesity rate was disproportionately higher at 76 percent to whites’ 62 percent.
The same source revealed that 48 percent of the county’s children up to 18 are overweight and at risk for obesity. As of 2008, the community had an average of 64 fitness centers to 134 fast food restaurants and 189 full-service restaurants.
Although healthier food options are available in Prince George’s, like whole food and farmer’s markets, it turns out that meal preparation can factor into the alarming statistics.
The First Baptist Church of Glenarden held its 19th annual Health Expo on Saturday, which exposed the community to healthy diet and lifestyle choices. The event included free cooking and exercise classes and health screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index which are conditions that most effect the black and Hispanic populations, according to Center for Disease Control. For the first time, a small farmer’s market was incorporated. The expo also featured Dr. Rovenia Brock, a countrywide renowned health and fitness expert.
“ is the fattest county in Maryland, and the paradox is that it’s the most affluent county in the country,” said Brock after her speech. “It just goes to show you that money economics don’t necessarily determine your health outcome.” She urged that the issue may come from meal preparation and food selection.
“There are over 250 choices that we make about food and physical activity every single day as Americans,” Brock told a crowd of about 300 people, “and every opportunity that you take to make the healthiest choice for yourself consistently over time ensures your outcome.”
She said that the black community may want to keep cultural foods in their diets, but instead use different approaches. She said you can use apples in sweet potato dishes instead lots of butter. She said growing a simple herb garden to season foods with can help reduce sodium intake since so many blacks suffer from hypertension and diabetes.
In Prince George’s County, diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death and hypertension is the 15th, and the County suffers from five of the ten leading causing of deaths, according to the Health Improvement Plan.
The plan is designed to increase the life span of Prince George’s residents by advancing health literacy and services. Glenarden’s Health Expo is a start, though it’s not associated with the plan.
“The statistics are very, very high in this county,” said Cheryl T. Cook, the expo’s Co-Chair, “and this is what led us to do this, to empower our community.”
Along with the helpful information and services the forum provided, Brock promised to use social media to coach those who participated in the church’s healthy fitness challenge.
“The process is not about where you start, but where you end up,” said Brock. “We’re in this together…As long as God allows you to open your eyes and put your feet on the floor, we can do this. Together we can not only change the community in Prince George’s, we can change the world.”

Jessika Morgan

AFRO Staff Writer