National Diet Campaign to improve Black males’ health

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson and National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Andrew von Eschenbach announced a national campaign to reduce the risk of chronic diseases among African-American men.

The campaign will focuses on motivating Black men to eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day to reduce their risk for diet-related diseases that disproportionately affect the Black community. NCI’s campaign to reach African-American men is among four national initiatives launched by HHS. “African-American men suffer much higher rates of almost every type of cancer than white men, and they’re more likely to have heart disease and high blood pressure,” said Secretary Thompson. “These leading causes of death are largely preventable through changes in our lifestyle choices. The 9 A Day campaign will help us to start emphasizing prevention of this epidemic by letting African-American men know the vital importance of eating fruits and vegetables to their overall health.”

NCI is focusing its efforts on reaching African-American men because they suffer disproportionately from a variety of health conditions. African-American men:

  •  Overall, have the highest cancer incidence and mortality rates, as well as the highest rates for certain cancers of any ethnic or racial group.

  •  Have the highest rates of prostate cancer and high blood pressure in the world.

  •  Are twice as likely as white men to develop diabetes.

  •  Develop diabetes and high blood pressure earlier in life than other men, and are more likely to suffer serious side-effects from these diseases.

  •  Have higher mortality rates from heart disease and obesity than other ethnic groups.

Although Black men are among the most seriously affected by diet-related chronic diseases, they have the lowest consumption of fruits and vegetables overall, eating an average of only 3.1 servings a day of the 9 recommended for men by federal nutrition policy. Only 3 percent of Black men are even aware that men should eat 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for better health. “We must not ignore the excessive burden of cancer in Black men,” said von Eschenbach. “Black men have the highest rates of prostate, lung, colon, oral, and stomach cancers and are over 140 percent more likely to die from cancer than white men. Since we recognize one third of all cancers are related to diet, this is one area that demands our attention. By eating 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, the risk of diet-related diseases affecting the African-American community can be lowered.”

HHS and NCI will work together with several African-American organizations and other health organizations to help get the 9 A Day message out to Black men. These organizations include the American Cancer Society (ACS), National Medical Association (NMA), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), and Black Entertainment Television (BET). With the participation of these organizations, NCI will be able to communicate the important message about the health disparities facing black men, the link between disease and diet, and practical tips for eating 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day as an important strategy for better health. “This campaign to reach African-American men is a major priority for NCI,” said Lorelei DiSogra, Ed.D., R.D., director of the National 5 A Day for Better Health Program, which promotes the general recommendation for Americans to eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. “We are committed to driving a national, multi-year, multi-faceted communications and education campaign to get the 9 A Day message to African-American men.”

The campaign also includes:

•  A new Web page for African-American men,
•  A new brochure for Black men about the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables and tips on how to eat 9 A Day. For a copy of the brochure, call NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

“We all need to help motivate black men to eat their 9 A Day today,” said Terry Mason, M.D., of Mercy Hospital in Chicago, who speaks to community groups across the country about how diet affects African-American men’s health. “Every day, I see patients who could have benefited from eating more fruits and vegetables, but are in my office instead. I am also a black man who eats more than 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, so I know it’s doable, and I am living the benefits. By changing my diet and getting more physical activity, I’ve been able to reduce medication and I feel great.”

To support the new “eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day” recommendation, NCI has updated its official campaign logo to emphasize the fact that most Americans should eat more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. A minimum of 5 servings a day is recommended for children under 6 years. Older children and most women should eat 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and teenage boys and most men should eat 9. The “eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day” recommendation also supports the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2000 and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid.

NCI recommends eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables – green, yellow/orange, red, blue/purple, and white – to get a broad range of nutrients. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and hundreds of disease-fighting phytochemicals that work together to reduce the risk of disease and promote good health. Only fruits and vegetables, not pills or supplements, can provide all of these nutrients together.
(Source National Institutes of Health)

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