In the Central Valley, African-American women are experiencing chronic stress as a result of discrimination, income inequality and high unemployment rates, which will lead to heart disease.
According to the U.S. Census, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of African-American deaths. And, the rates for black women are 204.5 per 100,000, while white females have a rate of 150.5 per 100,000. The disparity is related to living in underprivileged neighborhoods, in which women often begin to use alcohol and tobacco to relieve stress.
In the community, most African-American women are affected by racial and ethnic discrimination, which also may lead them to abuse alcohol and tobacco. Moreover, buying fast food, which is high in calories and low in nutrition, is another response to a high stress level.
An African-American woman with heart problems who experiences these issues shares her story.
Gloria Howard was faced with money problems that challenged her ability to support her basic needs and meet her kids' needs. As a single mother, she struggled to make payments on monthly bills at times. She also has weight issues because of challenges with income, housing, discrimination and her dedication to taking care of her kids.
In addition, she has high blood pressure and has suffered a cardiac arrest. But even though she lives in a Merced community where there is much poverty, she is determined to make sure her children come first, so that their lives will change. She believes that the government is helping her to a point, but doesn't believe in taking advantage of child support and other transfer payments.
A solution would be to introduce a program, perhaps called Escape Your Stress, that combines a school psychologist and a yoga instructor into a single session to help women in the community handle chronic stress. The stakeholders would be a local school and fitness club.
The high school gym could be the location, because mothers of children going to school have high stress levels. The business would provide a yoga instructor and receive advertising and a good reputation in the community. A school psychologist could host a session on how to cope with stress.
With this fitness program, black women would have less stress and could lower their risk of heart disease. It would be effective because it produces instant changes that can be seen by merging psychology and yoga into one session. Additionally, it would be free to all participants. The only costs would be the psychologist, provided by the school, and the yoga instructor, who would be employed by the gym.
Such a program would be sustainable because it could be started by professionals, but participants could assume the position of educators in leading the sessions.
Editor's note: Singson, a senior at UC Merced, wrote this as part of a course assignment to identify solutions to local public health issues. The program described here is only an idea; it does not exist at this point.