Thursday, November 12, 2009

Obesity: Worse Than You Thought

WASHINGTON, DC – Blacks are digging a grave with their mouths, killing themselves, slowly, and quietly, little by little, every day. They are more overweight and obese than any other racial group and at risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and certain types of cancers.

New research by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) reported November 5, that each year approximately 100,500 cancers occurring in the US can be attributed to excess body fat.

The figure underscores the central role that overweight and obesity are now understood to play both in the development of cancer and in cancer survivorship, said researchers.

"We now know that carrying excess body fat plays a central role in many of the most common cancers," said Laurence Kolonel, MD, PhD, Deputy Director of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii at a press conference. "And it's clearer than ever that obesity's impact is felt before, during and after cancer - it increases risk, makes treatment more difficult and shortens survival”.

Khalilah Ali is a nurse practitioner that travels the streets of Dallas providing home health care to throw away patients that others won’t treat. They are below low income in her words and are 95 percent Black and 65 percent obese.

“When you’re on their territory you get a full picture of their health status. They feel comfortable telling you everything because you’re not just treating an illness you’re treating a person. Poverty and oppression has impacted their lives. Many still eat a slave diet like they are still on the plantation,” she told The Final Call.

“I visit patients weighing 350 pounds sitting on their porch eating a ham sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise and drinking red Kool Aid. I’m the first person to tell them to stop eating pork. We have less cancer than others but we die from it more than others.”

From Dallas get on 20 East and two states later is Mississippi home to the city of Jackson, home to the U.S.'s largest population of Blacks. The magnolia state annually weighs in as America's fattest state.

The prevalence of obesity among Blacks in Mississippi is even greater than the national average for Blacks, especially among Black women. And more alarming, increasing numbers of Black children in the state are being diagnosed with obesity-related illnesses that in the past had been only found in adults.

"I used to be scared to step out there on the issue of Obesity but I realized that I wasn't being fair because I have a public platform and I need to use it for good," said Star Jones, host of the BET News special HEART OF THE CITY: DYING TO EAT IN JACKSON.

"I am not the 'poster child' for a specific weight loss method but I am a true advocate for adopting a healthy lifestyle because with all humility, doing so has saved my life."

HEART OF THE CITY: DYING TO EAT IN JACKSON revealed a perfect storm of socio-economic, cultural, environmental elements and individual lifestyle choices that have caused so many of Jackson's citizens to become obese. Almost one of every three Mississippians has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater -- the dividing line between being overweight and being obese.

Read more in The Final Call Newspaper

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thanks But No Thanks

Be careful when banks offer to do you a favor. It could cost you up to $35 each time they pay a charge you have insufficient funds for. Called “Courtesy Overdraft Services” banks provide this favor as a help to their clients who are either faced with having the charge denied or having it honored.

“If the bank bounces the check, the consumer will pay a fee to the bank; the consumer will likely pay a fee to the person to whom the check was written; the consumer may also face late payment fees and delinquencies if the check was written to pay a bill; and the consumer may also be at risk of violating state laws pertaining to bad checks,” testified Richard Hunt of the Consumers Banking Association before the House Committee on Financial Services, October 30.

“If the bank denies a debit card transaction, the consumer may be faced with a plate full of food or a cart full of groceries and no way to pay for them. With this in mind, it is not hard to understand why consumers generally prefer that their overdraft transactions be honored, even if they result in overdraft fees.”

But consumers are fighting mad about this courtesy. Horror stories abound of people who had to pay the $35 courtesy fee.

“I wish they had just denied the charge,” Sheila Pinkney told The Final Call. “I thought I had the money but was short. Just deny it don’t pay it and then charge me $35 each time I do it. My shopping spree cost me an additional $105. The least they could do is ask me if I want them to do me a favor and I would politely say, no sir.”

Congressional proposals to rein in abusive overdraft practices are long overdue, Center for Responsible Lending executive Eric Halperin also testified.

Mr. Halperin, director of CRL's Washington office, explained that bank overdraft programs, which cost consumers $23.7 billion last year and are among the most predatory lending products on the market.

"Charging people a $35 fee for a small, debit card transaction is unacceptable," he said. "It doesn't save them bounced check fees, it simply skims money from their account and puts them in a bind."

Read more in The Final Call...

90% of Black Children Eat Meals Paid for by Food Stamps

When David Peyton lost his construction job, things looked bad but when his girlfriend Josie Williams lost hers too things got worse. He knew they had hit rock bottom when Ms. Williams went to apply for food stamps.

“I didn’t want food stamps but we really needed them. We have three children and just couldn’t afford everything off unemployment. We needed help. I had lived to be 45 and never had government assistance but times are really hard now,” he told The Final Call.

Nearly half of American children – including 90 percent of Black children and 90 percent of children who spend their childhoods in single-parent households – will eat meals paid for by food stamps at some point during childhood (one year to 20 years old), reports Thomas Hirschl, Cornell professor of development sociology and co-author of a study published in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine

“This is a warning sign that our children are at risk. The ideas of how children are taken care of go back to the times of Ben Franklin with individual responsibility. Children are exposed to risk and suffering because of these outdated ideas,” he told The Final Call.

The report explains that nearly one-quarter of U.S. children will live in homes that receive food stamps for five or more years. Food stamps are important indicators of poverty and risk of food insecurity, “two of the most detrimental economic conditions affecting a child’s health,” says Mr. Hirschl.

Read more in The Final Call