Family Fitness Day highlights health risks affecting the Black community | News, Sports, Jobs

Mark Lennihan, Associated Press

This May 8, 2014, file photo shows an overweight man in New York. Being too heavy may cost you your life — literally. Scientists say overweight people die one year earlier than expected and that moderately obese people die up to three years prematurely in the biggest-ever analysis of such data, mostly from Europe and North America.

Dr. Richard Ferguson believes everyone can live a healthier lifestyle despite differing racial backgrounds.

“We can all be doing a little more,” he said. “We just need a little guidance.”

Ferguson is the founder and president of Black Physicians of Utah and chief medical officer for Health Choice Utah.

On Saturday, Black Physicians of Utah, in partnership with University of Utah Health Plans, the US Air Force and the Utah Black Chamber, will host its first Family Fitness Day at Valley Regional Park in Taylorsville. The event is open to the public at large and will include a 5K, yoga classes, access to personal trainers and dieticians, a bouncy house, healthy food, volleyball, music, a rock climbing wall and more.

“Obesity rates in our nation continue to rise for all groups, but disproportionately so in the US Black population,” he said. “Obesity is one of the largest risk factors for diseases which include hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.”

Ferguson said the goal of the event is to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle to reduce obesity rates in the Black community.

“There’s a lot behind obesity in the Black community. A lot of it centers on economic stability and access to healthy food.” he said. “And some of it also has to do with the neighborhood you live in and whether or not you have access to parks, gyms and walking trails. When you add it all together, it’s more than just health care and a doctor telling you to lose weight.”

Ferguson said Black females are 2.3 times more likely to be overweight compared to non-Hispanic white females. The Black maternal mortality rate is also 3.2 times higher because of obesity and little or no access to care.

“You shouldn’t have such a high risk of dying after delivering a child,” he said. “We need to help people make changes and point them in the right direction where they can find and access the help they need.”

Black Physicians of Utah is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help increase the number of Black physicians in the state. Currently, there are between 38-43 physicians and residents in Utah.

Ferguson said he decided to become a physician after losing his grandmother to bladder cancer.

“She was a smoker and she died a horrible, painful death and I decided to become a physician to help prevent someone else’s grandmother from going through that,” he said.

Registration for the event starts at 8:30 am Activities run from 9 am to 3 pm at Valley Regional Park, 5100 S. 2700 West, Taylorsville.

“It’s going to be a beautiful day, so there’s no excuse for people not to come out and walk for 30 minutes and learn some healthy lifestyle choices,” Ferguson said. “My hope is to bring this to Ogden next year.”

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