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Wellness and Health Equity in COVID-19

By: Nicole Good ’14

“The human body is an incredible machine.” I first heard these simple, yet powerful words sitting in Dr. Tina Wailgum’s Anatomy and Physiology class. While sitting in on any of Dr. Wailgum’s lectures, you’d be challenged to comprehend just about every aspect of what it takes for our body, this incredible machine, to perform.

What is needed to for the human body to perform? Consider the four pillars of health: nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress. To you, these four pillars might sound easily obtainable. Perhaps you live in a neighborhood where fruits and vegetables are abundant, your neighborhood is safe to go for a jog and you have a good circle of friends who help alleviate your stressors.

Contemplate this question: what if you can’t obtain the four pillars of health? What happens when the human body lacks essential nutrients (think: vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, water, and carbohydrates)? Well, it shuts down, or, what you might have experienced, gets sick. This, in combination with stress, lack of sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle, all have adverse effects on your health. When the human body is deprived of the four pillars of health – it cannot perform as the incredible machine it’s intended to be.

Think over this question: Why can’t someone obtain the four pillars of health? In the United States, there are many communities that lack opportunities to achieve the four pillars of health. Struggling school systems create stress for students and parents alike, safe/affordable housing with high crime rates can cause sleepless nights, and a lack of access to healthy foods (also known as food deserts) all contribute to deprivation of the four pillars of health. Families and children who experience deficiencies in any of these resources are much more likely to develop chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension.

My current role as the School Wellness Specialist at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education allows me to create wellness initiatives and opportunities for children and families across the Commonwealth. I am a firm believer that proper nutrition, health, and wellness should be accessible for all children and their families, regardless of their zip code, race, background, or ethnicity. This concept, also known as health equity, has become much more prevalent due to the novel coronavirus, as evidence shows that some racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected. As we continue to battle the virus, I encourage you to think outside your zip code and research communities that may suffer from health inequities.

How can you help? No task is too small! Here are a few ways to get started on promoting health equity:

  • Start a food drive at your workplace. With the holidays coming soon, food banks are always looking for donations. Keep in mind foods that are low in sodium and sugar and absent of trans fats are optimal options, as they keep the food on the healthy spectrum.
  • Contact a school district. With many schools remote, children don’t have access to books or other materials needed for an at-home learning environment.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has compiled a plethora of resources on: Achieving Health Equity. This site includes specific actions you can take according to your career.

Nicole’s current role is School Wellness Specialist at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which allows her to create wellness initiatives and opportunities for children and families across the Commonwealth.

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