Randy Varcho photo
No American is ready to hear that a baby born in Bangladesh has a better chance of reaching its first birthday than a baby born in Washington D.C., but Carolyn Parks-Bani, a community health educator from the Centers for Disease Control said it's true.
"Infant mortality in the U.S. has been declining steadily since 1990," she said during her River City presentation Saturday morning. "We are now No. 29 in the world, and African-Americans have the highest rate in the U.S."
Parks-Bani noted that most of the chronic health issues in the U.S. disproportionately affect populations of color, the poor and the disadvantaged.
And, she said, the American health system often hinders rather than heals. "We will treat a patient for heart disease and then send him back to a church where fried chicken and sweet potato pie are all that's served or to a wife who gets her acclamation from her skills as a cook. She doesn't want her dish (made with less fat and salt) sitting on the table untouched at the church social."
Parks-Bani believes that churches are the most natural vehicle for providing health education, both "in-reach" for members and "out-reach" for the community at large.
"We know what keeps people healthy — hope, faith, purpose, sense of belonging, belief in a higher power, social support, sense of responsibility, positive self-image and human touch. These are the natural activities of a church community. It's the place to start."