The prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled for adolescents over the last 30 years. Eleven year olds are 11 pounds heavier today than they were in 1973. Unfortunately, obesity is not the only serious health problem confronting our children. It’s disturbing that the roots of ethnic health disparities begin during early childhood, as Black children are developing conditions whose onset typically occurs in adults. While sedentary lifestyle and poor diet are at the root of this problem, African Americans also face many social and structural disadvantages that lead to limited access to nutritious food and few outlets for physical activity.
To stem the tide of chronic disease among Black youth, creative fitness programs in our communities are desperately needed. The success of such programs depends on collaboration between parents, teachers, community organizations, businesses, foundations and government agencies. Over the past 10 years, the 100 Black Men of America has been developing a model health/fitness program called Youth Movement to improve the well being of Black children.
Youth Movement is established in the San Francisco Bay Area, New Orleans, Louisville, Washington DC, and several other 100 Black Men Chapters are interested in participating in this initiative. Track and field is the hook that we use to keep young people fit and active. Track and field training is held year round and leads to competition with other schools and track clubs during late winter and early spring. Athletic training follows, and several Olympians/world class athletes lead training clinics for our youth and coaches. Youth Movement participants come together at a local facility to participate in the weekend athletic clinics and track meets. The track and field season culminates with the Tommie Smith Youth Track Meets in late spring. Up to 2,000 youth participate in these track meets. We have continually demonstrated that young people who participate in the Youth Movement program experience a significant improvement in their aerobic capacity after just four months. Visit 100 Black Men of America to find youth programs in your area and help reduce the childhood obesity epidemic.
How do you advocate for youth fitness in your town?
Mark Alexander, PhD is the 100 Black Men of America’s Health & Wellness Chairman. He is the former Assistant Director of the Medical Effectiveness Research Center for Diverse Populations, University of California at San Francisco, and is currently the Executive Director of Youth Movement, a community based initiative dedicated to improving the health, fitness and well-being of Black children.