Many of you know me to be a social worker, a vegan health nut (Or perhaps just a nut) and a wellness warrior (certified health practitioner). Health and wellness is my passion and it has never been clearer to me than now that my personal health and wellness is tied to the health and wellness of my community.
In the last few months I have had to deal with the ailing health of various loved ones in my life and the loss of my paternal grandmother and it dawned on me:
- It doesn’t matter how much green juice I drink if I alone am drinking it.
- All my health knowledge is lost if it’s not being shared and passed along.
- The journey to health is a community effort.
That being said I had the idea for The Sankofa Health Histories Project. The sankofa is a West African adinkra symbol which means return and gets it. The symbol is of a bird whose feet are facing forward but whose neck and head are looking back. The significance is that learning from the past ensures a strong future. Many of us are unaware of what we may be predisposed due to family genetics.
This is the time of year that many if not all people are resolving to make major shifts in their lives around wellness (lose weight, workout, stop smoking, get more sleep etc...), however without knowledge of family health history our efforts at making shifts are not as powerful. One of the single most important things you can do for yourself and your family is to collect a family health history because learning about what diseases/ailments run in your family is the best way to ensure it can be managed and stopped from being passed along intergenerationally.
There is no better time than the holidays as families gather to generate conversations around health. This holiday season my goal is to have at least 100 people in my community (that means you if you are reading this) collect their family health history by January 7th, 2012. I want you all to find out what traits run in your family, what health problems seem prevalent, the age of family members when they died, were there any pregnancy losses or babies born with birth defects, where family members where born, who smoked, exercise habits, allergies, mental health statuses and whatever else you can find out.
While this may not seem like dinner conversation I challenge you to break the silence and be the catalyst in your family to better health for you and your kids, nephews, nieces, cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, parents (you get the picture). The information you learn could be the difference between an increased quality of life and early death.
Help me help you by agreeing to speak to at least 2 family members this holiday, filling out a health history form and sharing what you learn with other family members. Awareness around health and wellness is the best gift you can give to your loved ones.
My desire is to have my community be more aware about their personal and collective health, generate conversations which moves us into actions around improving our heath in the New Year and beyond. I love you all and I want you to have a healthy life.
Here are links to online health history forms to help you collect info from your families:
Peta-Gaye Williams, LMSW, HC