Getting Healthy: Family Affair

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[Health News]

When Michelle Drayton, founder and president of Today’s Child Communications (TCC), convened the 5th Annual National Parent and Provider Enrichment Conference & Health Policy Forum, one of the top orders of business was to address the disparities in health and health care for African Americans.  

In regards to inequalities the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “for many health conditions, non-Hispanic Blacks bear a disproportionate burden of disease, injury, death, and disability.”  The center says that although the top three causes of death are the same for blacks and whites, the risk factors for these diseases and injuries often are greater among Blacks than whites.

Speaking from her New York office, Drayton, who is a registered nurse with a master’s degree in public health, told Black Star News that her goal is to “engage people in the policy aspects of health care.”  Further as a family-maternal child health specialist she has a mission to educate families about how they “can have their issues heard” and ultimately influence these policies.  She says that there are significant gaps in terms of both access to and quality of health care. 

Drayton also says parenting information that addresses the health, culture, traditions and lifestyle issues of people of color is in short supply.  This shortage of information is critical since Drayton considers achieving overall wellness a challenge that families should tackle together.  To meet this need TCC launched Today’s Child Magazine 10 years ago.  “The conference supports and complements Today’s Child Magazine which focuses on child and family health,” she said.

 While understanding our rights as consumers of medical care is very important, Drayton says that prevention should be at the top of any health care regimen.  She contends that one of the greatest health risks faced today—obesity—is preventable. 

Childhood obesity is making headlines.  According to the American Heart Association, weight gain that starts in childhood leads to enlarged hearts for young adults.  For black children ages six to eleven 17.2 percent of boys and 24.8 percent of girls are over weight.  Among adolescents ages twelve to nineteen, 17.7 percent of boys and 23.8 percent of girls are over weight. 

“We need to support each other on a daily basis in terms of what we eat,” says Drayton.  “It is a lifestyle issue. Obesity and many other chronic diseases can be prevented.” Her recommendations include cutting down on trans fats, eating more fish, and exercising three to four times a week. 

The conference, which was held earlier this year in Arlington, VA was attended by over 250 families who were able to speak to experts regarding their health care needs and concerns.  Other workshops focused on education, parenting, and wealth building. 

So what’s the connection between health, wealth and education?  When looking at some chronic illnesses, poverty comes up as a risk factor, Drayton explains. “Wealth building is absolutely connected to a healthier lifestyle. It’s all connected,” she continued.  “We must see our bodies as a holistic unit.”

In addition to Today’s Child Magazine and the Parent and Provider Enrichment Conference, TCC offers health marketing and program development services for maternal and child health organizations and corporations, a parenting symposia and a web site.

Prior to establishing Today’s Child Communications, Drayton was the Founding Director of Healthy Start/NYC, where she spearheaded a campaign that raised over $40 million in support of the organization’s mission to reduce infant mortality.  

Drayton is a member of the Auxiliary to the National Medical Association and serves on the boards of The Djoniba Dance and Drum Center; Brooklyn Perinatal Network; African-American Well Being Project; and the National Communications Advisory Council of March of Dimes. Drayton was recently named a “Phenomenal Women,” by Emmis Communications’ Kiss FM program and received the Black Rose Award, from the New York State Association of Black Women owned Enterprises in 2005.

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