Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? In Missouri, people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to have high blood pressure and heart disease than people without disabilities. They are less likely to get sufficient physical activity, and nearly 50 percent of people with disabilities rate their overall health as poor or fair. Why is this?
People with disabilities face many barriers to having good health and nutrition, such as:
- decreased access to affordable healthcare;
- inaccessible healthcare facilities and fitness centers;
- discriminatory behaviors and attitudes of healthcare workers; and
- limited income.
You may be wondering what you can do to help change that. In honor of National Nutrition Month, here are just a few tips to get you started:
- Join other advocates in St. Louis to promote a more accessible environment. Call your doctor, local gym or legislator to directly voice your concerns about how inaccessibility impacts your health. Contact Paraquad for more information on advocacy groups you can join.
- Find out where your local farmers market is. City Greens Market on Manchester Ave. is a local food nonprofit that offers free membership to people with low incomes — the produce is sold at or below cost, making it very affordable. Or check out Soulard Market, which is open Saturdays all year.
- Buy fruits and vegetables in season. When produce is not in season, it must be shipped a long distance to get to you, and the price goes up. Produce in season is much cheaper.
- Buy more whole foods than processed foods. Whole foods, which have just one ingredient, are healthier and often cheaper than processed foods. Buying a bag of rice and a bag of dried beans costs about the same as buying a box of macaroni and cheese, but will make nearly three times as many meals. See ChooseMyPlate.gov for more information on eating healthy.
- Seek resources for affordable meal planning. Good and Cheap is a well-known cookbook with tips and recipes for eating on $4 a day. Explore what else is out there!
- Set achievable goals. Decide on one thing you will do this week to support making a change. It can be as simple as calling your local YMCA to find out about classes or eating an apple each day with your lunch. Ask a friend to help hold you accountable.
Having a disability does not mean you cannot be healthy — physically, emotionally or socially. You have a right to choices and control over your health. Join me in celebrating National Nutrition Month! What is one step toward personal or societal change you can take today?
Savannah Sisk is an Independent Living Specialist at Paraquad. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo credit: Missouri Division of Tourism