The American Heart Association’s September #LifeIsWhy Family Health Challenge is highlighting the importance of physical activity this week. As part of this week’s topic, the #LifeIsWhy Twitter chat was hosted by Dr. Rani Whitfield, Tha Hip Hop Doc, based out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Rani G. Whitfield, M.D. is a Board Certified Family Physician with a certificate added qualification in sports medicine. Dr. Whitfield is an advocate on issues such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, and substance abuse.
“We need to lead by example,” said Dr. Whitfield when asked what the most important thing to communicate to parents and families about making healthier choices and being more physically fit. “I exercise frequently and I am also active just doing the yard work—my daughter sees these things. She sees dad out there being physically active,” said Tha Hip Hop Doc. Dr. Whitfield lives by example, and often asks his daughter to help in the yard to her get outside in the fresh air and moving as a way for her to be active without realizing she is exercising. “It's important to show them that being physically active is important to you, and to lead by example.”
Recently, the Surgeon General released a call to action, Step It Up!, to encourage more Americans to get out there and walk and roll their way to better health. Dr. Whitfield said, “Walking is one of the best ways to exercise- it's free, easy to do, and very hard to injure yourself doing. But we need to make our neighborhoods accessible and safe to walk and bike. I also think that we need to increase our involvement in policy making.”
“Step It Up! is a great idea locally and on a national level. I hope that citizens who are already active and use their neighborhoods can encourage their policy makers to help change other neighborhoods for the better,” said Dr. Whitfield. This past November, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council unanimously adopted a complete streets policy to ensure that as streets are being built or improved, that they will be designed with considerations for users of all ages and physical ability. They also allow for multiple modes of transportations so that pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transportation users are all able to move along and across streets safely.
One of the most important aspects to ensuring that a complete streets project will work, is to make it a priority to implement these standards in communities most in need. Baton Rouge’s project has worked to give a citizen advisory board authority to prioritize neighborhoods that are in the greatest need of more bikeable and walkable routes.
“There are no excuses- everyone can participate in moving more, even those with disabilities. I would like to see everyone become more active and healthy,” said Dr. Whitfield when asked what his hope or vision was for us as a nation to work to help more families be physically active. “In order to achieve this, we need to provide information and examples to people to show them how they can be more active. I want people to be physically, emotionally and spiritually well.” “I would like to see our leaders be more vocal about being physically active. There also needs to be a paradigm shift in doctor’s offices with more emphasis on prevention. As physicians we should all encourage our patients to be more active,” said Dr. Whitfield. “In the future I do believe we will see a healthier population, but we still have a long way to go.”