Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You Are What You Eat

BY: Sylvia DeLay

You are what you eat. So the saying goes reminding us that our food choices can make or break our health. But is this really the whole story?

Studies like this and this clearly demonstrate that the choices we make every day have a huge impact on our health. Will it be Whole Foods and a jog tonight or a whole lot of fatty food and some video games?

But what many of these studies do not touch upon is the context in which we make choices. As much as we like to believe we have complete control of our lives, our choices aren’t dictated simply by personal desires. We are affected by a whole host of factors such as our individual resources (education, income and wealth), neighborhood resources (housing, access to healthy food, and transportation options), opportunity structures (job availability and school systems) and systems of power (how our entire culture is structured).

Where we grow up, the level of education we have access to, the amount of money we earn—all have effects on our health. Furthermore, race and ethnicity –independent of socioeconomic status—have a significant effect on health.

The infant mortality rate in Colorado’s Black population is 16.9 percent versus 4.9 percent in the White population. The rate of childhood obesity among Colorado’s Latino population is more than twice that of the White population.

So although it will definitely improve our health if we each put down our greasy food and get off our collective bum, it’s also critical to fight for social and policy changes that offer more people the choice to be healthy.

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