This isn’t my typical post about alternative healthcare… I want to raise awareness about the lack of healthcare for minorities and share some information that you may not be aware of. While this may impact some more than others, as loving and conscious people who need to look out and care for each other, regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, etc., it really should affect us all.
Although the government has a track record of not really looking out for the American people when it comes to nutrition (case in point: subsidized genetically modified crops, covering toxic medications but not health promoting foods/supplements, etc.), it could/should potentially play a positive role in the healthcare system for every person in the US. When a need is made known or a people group for any reason is not able to receive adequate healthcare, the entire nation suffers. Poor health and nutritional issues have far reaching implications in all of society including education, family, crime rates, finances and so much more.
You might want to sit down for this. I am about to give props (just this once) to the American Medical Association (AMA). I can honestly say, I don’t do this very often. Not sure if I ever have but… The AMA (American Medical Association) has recently proposed a policy change that, if adequately implemented, could improve the health of countless Americans, and especially minorities. (Of course, this was proposed by a group of plant-based MD’s. Go figure.)
Policy name: Culturally Responsive Dietary and Nutritional Guidelines D-440.9781
Overview of this policy1:
The goal of this policy is multifaceted. It is:
- To be more culturally sensitive, using various ethnic symbols on government food guides. This will help the needed nutrition messages reach and resonate with people of different cultures thereby helping with improved nutritional education. If a person goes to their doctor but doesn’t understand or doesn’t fully understand what they need to actually do, they’re not helped much if at all. Research indicates that culturally competent communication in healthcare can actually improve health outcomes.2
- To help medical doctors use USDA guidelines and MyPlate guides in their practices. Although many of these government issued nutritional guidelines are lacking in some ways in terms of optimal health, they do at least promote some Albeit low, they provide higher nutrient intakes than many Americans are currently getting. At least 1/3 of the US population is at serious risk of being deficient in at least one important nutrient.3 This is a major problem for the longer term health of people.
- To help promote the understanding that lactose intolerance is common among Americans but specifically in minorities such as African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans, especially effecting minority children.
- To promote research and opportunities in organized medicine to help obesity, food guidelines and to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities and also to help doctors provide culturally effective care. This is especially important in terms of the racial and ethnic disparities that we will get into further in the discussion. Minorities often are not receiving the education, resources and healthcare that they need.
- To propose legislation that modifies the School Lunch Act so that children are no longer required to provide proof that they have medical need to not be given cow’s milk. Again, this is especially helpful for minority children but in a general sense, all children should have the right to choose if they want a plant-based milk instead of dairy, regardless of if they have a diagnosed health challenge. Perhaps they just don’t like it or, in some cases, have a conscious conflict about animal products.
- To propose that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services clearly indicate in the dietary guidelines for Americans that meat and dairy products are optional and based on an individual’s needs. For the researchers and medical staff who are up-to-date, it is now clear that a balanced plant-based diet is adequate (and then some) to provide needed nutrition without adding the down side of consuming animal products in order to get that nutrition.4
This policy was last modified in 2018. It’s too soon to really know the success of this policy but I suspect it will depend greatly on the compliance of the individual doctors to actually promote the new standards. Thanks to the work of prominent plant-based doctors like Milton Mills, John McDougal, Caldwell Esselstyn and Dean Ornish (to name a few), more doctors than ever before are starting to see the values of holistic health care and a plant-based diet. However, of course, on the other hand, there are still many medical professionals who are completely uneducated when it comes to the power of plant-based nutrition (or any form of evidence-based nutrition for that matter). For the latter, there could potentially be some reluctance in “allowing” people to choose if they consume meat and dairy products as it goes against too much deep-seated dogma that has been around for decades. When a better way or new research is presented, we have to change. Many in the medical field will likely struggle with this.
This policy is greatly needed because minorities, both children and adults, have a greater incidence of disease conditions. This is of course not a racial issue due to skin color but rather due in large part to the lack of access to nutritional education, high quality food and adequate healthcare. Most chronic diseases are decreased in those who are more educated5 as well as those who are in a higher income bracket6.
- Hispanic and African Americans have a higher incidence of diabetes5
- Hispanic and African Americans have a higher incidence of diabetes along with cardiovascular disease5
- Hispanic and African Americans have a higher incidence of diabetes along with cancer5
- Ethnic minorities also have a higher incidence of high blood pressure, cancer, obesity and HIV/AIDS6
Until this point most governmentally promoted nutritional guidelines have led people to believe that they had to consume meat in order to get protein as well as dairy for adequate calcium. But the truth is that meat is associated with various disease conditions, especially cardiovascular disease while plant protein is associated with decreased risk of disease.7 Also due to the disease conditions associated with meat consumption, it is estimated that the medical costs of meat consumption is billions of dollars per year.8 There is a similar issue with dairy. Dairy is linked with several types of cancer, specifically with prostate9 and ovarian cancers.10 Furthermore, research has shown a great improvement in calcium levels though just consuming vegetables.11 The takeaway? Even if meat were a great source of protein (that’s another story) and dairy was a great source of calcium, the negative associations with it make it worth finding protein and calcium sources that don’t have such a high risk/downside. That is a needed message that has not been widely spread in society, although policies like this will prove helpful.
Minorities for the most part are far more likely to be lactose intolerant. This has to do with a slight variance in their digestive tracts (these variances occur in all cultures). This means that dairy cannot be digested and will often make them sick. And yet, dairy has traditionally been pushed in nearly all government programs as the superior way to get calcium. Until this point, children who were taking part in the School Lunch Act were forced to provide proof from a medical doctor that they had to have a non-dairy alternative to milk. This of course impacted minority children more than white children because they are more likely to be lactose intolerant. It is unkind, unethical and wrong on every level to promote foods, especially to children, when the research is clear that it will harm them. Dr. Milton Mills, MD, refers to this as a form of institutionalized racism when he says, “Although it may be unintentional, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines as they exist are really a fundamental form of institutionalized racism in a rather destructive and insidious format.“12
The policy benefits the American population as a whole to some degree as it’s making efforts to move people away from animal products somewhat by making more options available. And, through educational initiatives, it will especially benefit minorities as they have a higher risk of so many health challenges. For example, although the average American’s risk for nutritional deficiency is around 33%, an African American’s is more around 55%.3 It’s no wonder that minorities have a greater incidence of disease! This is a problem that consistent education to all people can help to reduce.
Educating people about nutrition is primary key to helping improve the health state of our nation. But then, of course making better options available is where the rubber meets the road. Again, this is especially important for children as they don’t normally get to choose what is offered in the school lunch program or what is purchased at home.
For me personally in my Holistic Health Care practice, I have been writing and educating clients about the benefits of a plant-based whole food diet for years; but I specifically wanted to write this post on this policy to help spread the word. I want all families to know that there are more healthy living habits and options (than meat and dairy) and that even the medical field and government agencies are seeing the undeniable and inarguable benefits of a plant-based diet. This is a great step in the right direction!
From the bottom of my heart, please know that at New Hope Health, we love all people. My desire is to help empower you to put your health back in your own hands and get healthy now. Health is wealth and becoming healthy is one of the best investments you can make both in your own life and as an act of love toward your family, friends and mission.
- Culturally Responsive Dietary and Nutritional Guidelines D-440.978. American Medical Association. https://policysearch.ama-assn.org/policyfinder/detail/D-440.978?uri=%2FAMADoc%2Fdirectives.xml-0-1522.xml. Published 2018. Accessed June 23, 2020.
- Taylor SL, Lurie N. The role of culturally competent communication in reducing ethnic and racial healthcare disparities. Am J Manag Care. 2004. doi:10.13016/jysr-kkt7
- Bird JK, Murphy RA, Ciappio ED, McBurney MI. Risk of deficiency in multiple concurrent micronutrients in children and adults in the United States. Nutrients. 2017. doi:10.3390/nu9070655
- Tuso PJ, Ismail MH, Ha BP, Bartolotto C. Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. Perm J. 2013. doi:10.7812/TPP/12-085
- Davis J, Penha J, Mbowe O, Taira DA. Prevalence of Single and Multiple Leading Causes of Death by Race/Ethnicity Among US Adults Aged 60 to 79 Years. Prev Chronic Dis. 2017. doi:10.5888/pcd14.160241
- Crook ED, Peters M. Health disparities in chronic diseases: Where the money is. Am J Med Sci. 2008. doi:10.1097/MAJ.0b013e31816902f1
- Song M, Fung TT, Hu FB, et al. Association of animal and plant protein intake with all-cause and cause-specific mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2016. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.4182
- Barnard ND, Nicholson A, Howard JL. The medical costs attributable to meat consumption. Prev Med (Baltim). 1995. doi:10.1006/pmed.1995.1100
- Qin LQ, Xu JY, Wang PY, Tong J, Hoshi K. Milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer in Western countries: Evidence from cohort studies. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007. doi:10.6133/apjcn.2007.16.3.12
- Qin B, Moorman PG, Alberg AJ, et al. Dairy, calcium, Vitamin D and ovarian cancer risk in African-American women. Br J Cancer. 2016. doi:10.1038/bjc.2016.289
- Qiu R, Cao WT, Tian HY, He J, Chen GD, Chen YM. Greater intake of fruit and vegetables is associated with greater bone mineral density and lower osteoporosis risk in middle-aged and elderly adults. PLoS One. 2017. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0168906
- Muwakkil S. MANY WHO `GOT MILK’ GET SICK. Chicago Tribune. 2000.