For the last four years, I have been organizing to help communities overcome injustice in the food and healthcare systems (see my recent post Sugar and Social Justice). When I was in Washington DC, the work focused on making sure that low-income people with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol have access to doctors, so they can better manage these chronic conditions and stay out of hospitals and emergency rooms.
But what if we could actually support people to become healthier?
At UniteHere!, I’ve organized a committee of low-income union members who are focused on making sure that their co-workers stay healthy. This summer, we launched a program called Better Living. It’s a six week workshop where people with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other chronic conditions learn together about taking better care of themselves through nutrition, exercise, and stress-management. Together, the group sets goals to make concrete changes in their daily lives that support health. Eating more vegetables, laying off the sugar. Regular exercise. Meditation.
This week, 28 people graduated from our first workshop. These union workers are from all over NYC, from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem and Washington Heights. And they are taking what they learned back to their workplaces, back to their families, and back to their religious communities.
Carlos is one of the first graduates of our Better Living workshop. He works in the cafeteria at the American Museum of Natural History.
Carlos: “I’ve had diabetes for 27 years. Before this workshop, my doctor told me to change my diet but I didn’t know how to do it. I felt really alone. It was hard to stick to a program when I was trying to do it by myself. Better Living gave me a lot of support. Now I am starting to stick to my goals. I didn’t even realize before that I was feeling depressed. But by working with others and taking better care of myself, I feel so much happier!
The Unite Here healthcare committee is all set to get another 30 people through the program in October. Together, we are working to transform the health of our families and communities.