Our Health and Social Change I

August 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Where does social change begin? I’ve been asking myself this question for a long time but it hit me especially hard this weekend. I was sitting with my father, who is in his early fifties, we were waiting for my uncle and chatting with a friend who is also about their age, all of them have diabetes. At that point I had to wonder why it has almost become a rite of passage for Puerto Rican men of a certain age to sit around and discuss the onset of diabetes.

The Health Care debate has been sad and frustrating. Even with the best president in a generation there seems to be so little we can do. And it feels so far away from the day to day lives of those who are getting sick by virtue of simply living and eating in our society. So where does social change begin? Is it by slowly bringing progressive voices into state power? Is it by organizing people to feed themselves better? Is it all about personal responsibility?

This is life and death stuff, and even when the dying is slow; it seems like the policy debate moves even slower. We haven’t even been able to have a serious national discussion about health since the early 90s!  then, is it about personal change. I think I’m pretty committed to my own personal transformation, and I in fact, spend a whole lot of my time trying to move others into that space, and even so, it is such hard work to change how we eat!

I would certainly not take responsibility out of any one’s hands, but then you look at social indicators and all those patterns that show poor people and people of color are most vulnerable to health issues caused by the deadly diets that are sold to us as food. And you have to wonder – are we just a collection of irresponsible individuals because our cultural backgrounds make it so? Or is there something else at play here?

I hope no one is surprised to find where I land on these questions. There is certainly a social context in which this madness takes place, and it is one that we need to look at more deeply. I’ve been thinking a lot about the food movement these days, and I’ll write more about this tomorrow!

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  • Melinda says:

    Thanks G. As you know, Andrea and I have had the recent blessing of consulting with folks in your Dad’s neighborhood who took up this very issue and created the Springfield Health Equity Initiative. They resolved that social change begins when community folk themselves engage in a systemic analysis of health and health disparities among our people, and then decide to change — themselves, the structures, frames, policies and outcomes as it affects black and brown folk in ways at are structural, culturally relevant — and yes— FUN. (We sooo enjoyed the spirit and resolve of the people in Springfield). I tell you – with the history of collaboration, community based energy and cohesion Ive experienced in working in that community for the last 2 years now — Springfield is about to break through to the otherside of what community based/generated social transformation is about. Im sure the heavy consentration of Boricas has much to do with that! 😉 Really, though, you should be proud — lots of brillance, resilence and responsbility-takers on this issue and more in your hometown, my dear brother.

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