American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

April is National Minority Health Month, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) use to highlight the importance of reducing health disparities and improving the health of racial and ethnic minority and American Indian (AI)/Alaska Native (AN) communities. This year, the theme is “Be the Source for Better Health: Improving Health Outcomes Through our Cultures, Communities, and Connections.” 

“This year’s theme,” the CDC explains, “is about understanding how the unique environments, cultures, histories, and circumstances (known as social determinants of health, or SDOH) of racial and ethnic minority and AI/AN populations impact their overall health.”  

Health coaches and exercise professionals are perfectly positioned to be among the public health and community-based partners the CDC is calling upon to serve as reliable sources of evidence-based information and guidance that is also culturally and linguistically appropriate and is an element of providing quality, equitable and respectful care to members of all communities. 

So, what can you do to become a go-to resource for everyone in your community? The first step is to learn about the social determinants of health so that you can better understand the perspectives and experiences of the people you’re working with, whether that’s in a gym setting or out in the community doing outreach or public service. The five categories of social determinants of health are: 

  • Education access and quality 
  • Economic stability 
  • Healthcare access and quality 
  • Neighborhood and built environment 
  • Social and community context 

The next step is to think critically about each of those categories and look for areas where you can make a difference. For example, can you broaden access to your services by reaching into new communities or offering different pricing structures? Can you make changes in the neighborhood or build a stronger sense of community by offering outdoor classes in a local park and reaching people who you might not otherwise serve?  

Finally, you can become a trusted resource by consistently meeting people where they are (as opposed to waiting for your usual target audience to walk through your door) and offering evidence-based information that empowers and inspires people to live healthier and more active lifestyles. Start by knowing how to find the best information and then communicate with each individual in a way that is welcoming and culturally sensitive. Follow the four-step process outlined at that link to evaluate a piece of content before sharing it: 

  • Search for bias 
  • Read the research 
  • Evaluate for truth 
  • Look for consensus 

It’s also essential that you know to identify credible sources of nutrition information, which is becoming increasingly challenging in this digital age, where new and often conflicting advice comes at us from all directions. Nutrition is often a complex topic, particularly when you consider cultural differences and traditions. It’s vital that you take the time to discuss current eating patterns with each of your clients and participants in a way that is sensitive to those preferences and traditions. 

The 2024 National Minority Health Month theme is really a call to action to develop much-needed connections within and across communities so that we can address those health disparities and improve health outcomes for everyone. So, spend some time thinking about how you communicate, what type of information you share and with whom you are sharing that content. Are you reaching the broadest possible audience and doing so in a way that will make the greatest impact? In truth, there is always room for improvement and ongoing growth, so be sure to visit the National Minority Health Month website and use the resources and toolkit provided to learn more

Mindful Movement: Coaching Clients to Become More Active

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