On August 1, 2011, MinnPost put up an article on the health disparities between whites and minorities in Minnesota. http://www.minnpost.com/severnsguntzel/2011/08/01/30402/who_gets_to_live_the_longest_in_the_twin_cities_and_why According to the story, “the life expectancy of white men in Hennepin County is more than four years higher than for black men [and] white women in Hennepin County have a life expectancy that exceeds black women by more than three years.” The Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota, of which I am a member, has long been aware of these disparities and we have been promoting bicycle riding as an exercise form to tackle this issue. These efforts were outlined in an April, 2011 story in Metro magazine. http://www.metromag.com/article/arts/cycling-twin-cities
As these disparities persist, it would appear to me that our efforts, along with the efforts of health care advocates, should move from bicycling as an exercise effort to bicycling as a lifestyle change. But we must walk before we can run.
Case in point: several North Minneapolis residents who were tornado victims have asked for help in putting their lives back together as evidenced by this story put up on The Daily Planet on August 3. http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2011/08/03/not-only-it-injustice-us-neighborhood One request, buried in the request for help with housing repair issues, is a request for a replacement car for one destroyed in the tornado where there was no insurance coverage. It is at points like these that bicycle advocates and health care advocates should step in and try to convince residents to use a bicycle as a substitute. I am sure we can come up with many other instances where folks just think they need a car when a bicycle would do just as well.
Here are my suggestions as to what we can do to promote bicycle use to narrow the health disparities:
1. If we are friends with any persons and especially minority persons who have a sedentary lifestyle, talk with them about bicycle riding as a way to achieve better health outcomes. If they start riding, encourage them to continue and to eventually move from an exercise effort to a lifestyle change.
2. If we are in a riding group or if we put together informal or impromptu group rides, talk to our group about slowing down to take on new riders and especially new minority riders.
3. If we have connections to the health or nonprofit communities, encourage those sectors to promote bicycle riding as a healthy lifestyle choice.
4. Support the efforts of Major Taylor Bicycling Club as they continue to tackle this difficult issue.
I welcome any additional suggestions you may have.