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Season 3 | Episode 6

Black Health: Running Toward Change

There are major health challenges facing the Black community including stroke, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

February 21, 2023 | 40 minutes

Episode 6: Norman Wright and Edward Walton

Our hosts talk with Norman Wright and Edward Walton about what needs to be done to improve health care for Black Americans and how community organizations are leading the way.

Speaker 1: We show up in communities with people that they already trust, community organizations, churches, barbershops, you name it. The places where our people go to sort of connect and engage and feel comfortable with each other in these safe environments. And for us to build back trust in what good healthcare can be all about. I believe it's gotta be done in sort of concert within a collaboration with those kinds of community organizations.

Speaker 2: Welcome back [00:00:30] to Until It's Fixed, where we explore new ideas and work underway to make healthcare simpler and more effective for everyone. I'm your host, Callie Chamberlain.

Speaker 3: And I'm Dr. Kenny Poole. And this episode we'll be revisiting a common topic on this podcast, health equity, specifically regarding black health.

Speaker 3: I'm really interested in today's topic, which is health equity, particularly as it pertains to what we can do to make improvements in [00:01:00] that space, whether it's as a large institution like United Health Group or a community-based program like Black Man Run or other grassroots organizations. And I think it's important to really ground ourselves on what health equity is. I think at its core, I think the concept of health equity is a recognition that there are gaps in our systems, right? And that there are disparities and that there's a big need for us [00:01:30] to really level the playing field, however that's defined now. I'm curious what your thoughts are, just kind of giving your expertise in the work that you do in that space.

Speaker 2: So I really like what you said, Kenny. The one thing that I think about in particular as it relates to what you just shared, is about your comment that this system has gaps in it. And to me, what I think about is every system functions exactly as it was set up and intended to function. Mm-hmm. [affirmative]. And when the health system was established [00:02:00] in the United States, I for one, as a brown woman, was not included and seen as a whole human being in how people should be cared for. And so I think if I reflect on it that way, it's sort of understanding where we're at. It doesn't have to mean that there was malicious intent. It doesn't have, you know, that part of it is sort of separate. I'm not really interested in that for purposes of work. It's just recognizing that we now need to shift the system to be much more inclusive of people that were not even, [00:02:30] again, thought of as whole human beings at the time that this system was established.

Speaker 2: I also think about health equity in the context of, you know, all of the social determinants of health. So what does it mean to have a safe place to live, to have food, to have transportation. And it needs to be equal opportunity to access those things. And I personally feel like that is not true for the world that we live in today. So addressing those things also helps us get closer to having [00:03:00] health equity. There's a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation where you can input zip codes and they can tell you the expected life expectancy for a specific region based on your skin color and the lifespan in that area. And a lot of it is because of these social determinants of health that I'm describing. And in some areas, black Americans are living up to 20 years less than their white counterparts one zip code over. And so I think that really articulates clearly the need for comprehensive health equity and how deep and important and wide [00:03:30] it really is.

Speaker 3: Yeah, I mean at the core of it, and you touched on both of these, it comes down to justice and fairness, justice and looking at the historical framework in which the system sits in. Right? And then fairness in terms of the current disparities that exist today. And alpha one, I'm glad that there are people that are working on this, as I mentioned, whether it be at a institutional level or [00:04:00] on a grassroots level. So in today's episode, we actually spoke with two guests that are working on just that. The first is Norman Wright, who is the executive Vice President of Health Equity Strategy for United Health Group. To start things off, we wanna just go from what your connection is with this topic. How did you get started in this work and why is it important to you?

Speaker 1: Well, first, Dr. Kenny Poole [00:04:30] and Callie, thanks so much for having me and inviting me. I'm, I'm actually thrilled to be with you and thrilled to have an opportunity to talk about this critically important topic. That's kind of why I got into healthcare initially. Uh, you know, I lost my mother many years ago, coming up on 30 years now, lung condition sarcoidosis, don't mind sort of sharing that. Lived in an inner city back in Philadelphia, had the same P C P for years and years and years and did not get access [00:05:00] to the right and most appropriate care. And as a result, probably shortened her life. Um, and it was a very painful experience. So I don't wanna see any family go through a similar situation, so that drives me as well. But yeah, super pleased to be involved in the work and uh, hey, we got a lot of work to do.

Speaker 2: Thanks for sharing that story. I really appreciate it and I'm really sorry to hear that that happened. I think the disparities that you experienced, that I experienced on a personal level, it's hard to understand [00:05:30] at a macro level. And I'm wondering if you can speak a little bit about disparities broadly and specifically some of the health outcomes that you're seeing in the black community.

Speaker 1: Yeah. You know, when you think about the black community, and of course there's a long history and a troubled history and there's systemic elements of racism along our history that have dramatically impacted the delivery of healthcare to our community. So you have to start with an understanding that many of these elements are systemic [00:06:00] and they're built in intentionally or not, they just are. Right. So gotta understand. So you can get down to the root cause of what some of those drivers are. The biggest elements we see show up, of course, are in access and affordability. So many of our folks in black communities live in areas where they certainly are underserved, uh, can be challenged from a provider, network and provider access perspective. There's certainly a full range of social determinants impacting the black community. So transportation, [00:06:30] food and nutrition, financial support and financial wellness, health literacy, access to digital and data solutions.

Speaker 1: All those elements kind of contribute to our people not getting the right invest and most appropriate care for them. And then when you talk about disease conditions, Callie and how it shows up, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular, and again, many of those conditions, a mix of how [00:07:00] people have grown up over time has kind of been in the culture, some lack of awareness of all the right sort of behaviors and sort of prevention elements that you can weave into your life to live sort of better and healthier. So you get those things, you have a lack of trust in the healthcare system. So when it comes to vaccinations, when it comes to wellness exams, just going in for appointments, people are somewhat hesitant for really good reasons. They go back decades, right? In fact, centuries. Mm-hmm. [affirmative]. And here's the thing that motivates us every day, [00:07:30] is we believe we can control those things with the right strategic thinking around how you engage, how you sort of get to and reach people in those communities. And then being super thoughtful about all the elements of the healthcare delivery system and where we're unintentionally contributing to disparities and bias. Yeah. So, so those are the things we have to get after.

Speaker 2: Thank you for just laying out how complex and dynamic that is. Because I think it's, it's hard to really grapple with how big this is [00:08:00] mm-hmm. [affirmative] and to try to understand where the points are that we might tap in to start to change. And even changing one dimension of this like you're describing with potentially addressing access to care that doesn't change the other systems that are also at play that prevent real equity from happening. And so I wonder if you wanted to expand on that. And I also wanted to touch on the last point specifically about the trust in our medical system because that to me seems to be one of the most dynamic given. We're talking about a personal interaction between [00:08:30] someone and their healthcare provider, which is really hard to monitor at scale.

Speaker 1: Yeah. So that's, it's, it's a great question and I love going deeper on this. So let's, let's start with the kind of just an access example, right? We can't control that stakeholders in the healthcare system may decide we don't wanna own and operate hospitals in underserved communities. It's difficult to do. Maybe we don't make enough profit, quote unquote. Yes, we'd like to be mission oriented and serving, but also there's the sort of financial realities of operating [00:09:00] a hospital system like that. So that leaves in this huge gap, right? And potential deserts in sort of care delivery. So we have to think about different models of reaching people, be it telehealth and virtual, be it mobile units going into the community, be it partnering with community organizations who have points of presence to sort of new ways for us to reach in and connect with people and be there for them.

Speaker 1: And you know, we always say this, right, Callie, uh, healthcare is incredibly [00:09:30] local. So always need to be thinking in the context of down to a zip code in a neighborhood. What are the dynamics mm-hmm. [affirmative], you know, they're in. And then how do we solve for them when it comes to access affordability and getting the right care on the trust point? Whew. And I have to start with like a 45 second anecdote. Okay? Hopefully many of the listeners, if they haven't gone to, we'll get to the National Museum of African American History in DC and take [00:10:00] that tour and take the time to take the tour properly, which means it may be a couple days when you go through that experience and you start downstairs and those that have been there will know what I'm talking about. And it takes you back to the slavery days and coming up through reconstruction, et cetera, you see visualized things like very rudimentary and just old sort of outdated testing tools and mechanisms they used on our people [00:10:30] way back then to try to sort of understand and tune the science of medicine.

Speaker 1: And to say those practices were cruel and sort of beyond understanding would, would be an understatement, right? So imagine those things were happening, they continue to happen. You had tragic, unfortunate situations like that from a, we're doing test in control to try to sort of develop medicine. All of those stories get passed down. All of those stories get embedded in the black culture's [00:11:00] consciousness, right? Doesn't matter that, you know, decades and decades have gone by. You still hear those stories. We saw it show up in the pandemic, people not wanting to go get vaccinated because of lack of trust. So overcoming that, it's gonna be a really big deal and it's gonna take, I think a couple of really key things. Big is being transparency and people understanding when we're talking about the delivery of care, kind of here's what that means. We show up in communities [00:11:30] with people that they already trust, right?

Speaker 1: Community organizations, churches, think about the barbershops, you name it. The places where our people go to sort of connect and engage and feel comfortable with each other in these safe environments. And for us to sort of build back trust in what good healthcare can be all about, I believe it's gotta be done in sort of concert with and in collaboration with those kinds of community organizations. So that's one. Two is [00:12:00] you gotta have a healthcare delivery system from a clinician perspective that resembles and represents the communities we're serving, right? Does that mean that every black person wants a black provider? No, it doesn't mean that doesn't mean if that's important to me. And if I'm in a place where, hey, if I don't have a provider that looks like me, I'm not going in for my prostate exam, I'm not going in for my annual check. I'm not gonna get my numbers run on my, you know, my blood year to year to see how I'm doing all of that. Yeah. If [00:12:30] those things are barriers because of the lack of, you know, suitability and I see someone that looks and feels like me and that has to be addressed, right? Which is why we're spending this, you know, this huge a hundred million dollar investment from our foundation on future diverse workforce, which we're excited about, but that's another huge one we need to overcome.

Speaker 3: What's success look like in this? I mean, and that's, that's a broad question. So even let, let me drill down that like, like what does significant improvement [00:13:00] look like? How can we realize that? How do we know we're on the right track?

Speaker 1: You know, our small health equity team within Yang Health Group who works very closely in tight partnership with the businesses, you know, we are working on a broader strategic plan. We're working to align the organization around a few key priorities, which I can quickly sort of step through. But one of the things we think about from an inspiration perspective, Kenny, and just kind of, you know, keeping ourselves motivated in this pursuit is if we were writing a press release one or [00:13:30] two years down the road, what would the elements of press release say? What, what would they look like? And we think about things like this. So we know today black women within maternal health, within that context, three to four more times likely to die or have a really adverse health outcome simply because they're black, right? And because of all the elements in the system that we've been talking about, I like to see us bend back that curve, not just in our population here at United Health Group or United Healthcare specifically that we service, but [00:14:00] across the system by 20 percentage points.

Speaker 1: Bending a curve like that for such a dramatic disparity to me would be a huge indication that we're on the right track. Then kind of step down through it. Diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular. We have man, we do good data on kind of how our populations are performing across those disease states. We can identify kind of how much of a disparity we're seeing [00:14:30] within each. And then similarly, one year, two years down the road, see significant improvement in how do the disparities are showing up. That would be a another indication for me if we looked at the numbers across our clinical workforce today and said eight or 9%. And don't quote me on that, but let's just say that's the number are diverse, especially in certain areas where there's concentration of people of color or rural communities, you name it. And we start to see meaningful and material [00:15:00] increases in the number of providers that represent those communities.

Speaker 1: That would be a win and that would feel good in terms of some progress. And then, you know, it's interesting, the entire world is modernizing. We're going digital heavy. We have all these machine learning and AI algorithms that run in the background that control so much of what we all see and experience every day. And within healthcare, it's informing clinical decisions, it's predicting next best actions for patients when they call in or walk into a care [00:15:30] provider's office like you have all those things happening. Progress for me would be, we could look at any of those sort of technology and analytic driven routines and feel really great that we have no unintended bias or no sort of impacts happening cuz we've made a set of assumptions based on the majority of the population versus those with special and unique needs. So just a few things that, that I would look at as progress. Great.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I appreciate that comment of [00:16:00] how it gets embedded into structure mm-hmm [affirmative] and embedded into these tools that we're using. And I think that's a really important point that is a part of health equity, but maybe doesn't get as much attention as it could to be able to really change outcomes at scale. So I, I saw that there was a hundred million investment for a diverse health workforce and that includes a scholars program. Can you tell us all about what that is?

Speaker 1: Yeah, and I, and I'm so glad you asked me about that cuz we're super excited about this one. So [00:16:30] you've likely heard that We've been driving a program called Diverse Scholars from our United Health Foundation for many years now. And we put cohorts of diverse students, give them scholarships and put them into programs that colleges and universities and get them on a healthcare provider, mostly P C P intended track. It's been very successful. It's created this amazing community of alums that have gone on to get their degrees, become clinicians and physicians [00:17:00] and then most importantly go back into their underserved communities to take care of people in a context that they really understand. That's been our foundation and kind of how we've started this sort of scholarship education and improving the workforce. So, you know, our thing was we all see the numbers, we know how short we're running as it relates to clinical in the clinical workforce and we know we're lacking in diversity, so let's go in bigger, you know, let's take a hundred million dollars over 10 years [00:17:30] and drive that into far more kids, young people getting into healthcare clinical tracks.

Speaker 1: And then ultimately over time we're gonna see them sort of backed into these communities serving people. So super excited about that. You're gonna hear more as we go through 2023 as we introduce new scholarship partners and you start to hear exciting things that some of our cohort members are doing. But yeah, super excited about that big long-term investment. [00:18:00] And so the future workforce is one of six key priorities for our company that we've established. So workforce is one, mortality and life expectancy with a specific focus on maternal health for black women, it's probably our leading goal area that we're going after behavioral and mental health with a focus on youth mental health as well as seniors in isolation. The teens suicide rates over the last several years and especially during the pandemic, have [00:18:30] increased dramatically. It's a very tragic situation. One we need to address.

Speaker 1: The third is access and affordability. We've talked a lot about that here today. Making sure that we're getting to and reaching not just to black community, but all underserved communities, chronic condition management, we've mentioned diabetes and obesity and other chronic diseases. That's gonna be a focus area. And then the remaining one is social economic challenges, and that's all the social determinants that we've spoken [00:19:00] so much about. One key element here, healthcare is local, healthcare is personal. We have to be incredibly disciplined and data driven and understanding zip code by zip code across those six areas where the deepest needs are. So it's not that we say maternal black women, that needs to be a focus. Well there are certain communities where those trends are really bad, but we need to get in with new clinical model, with [00:19:30] engagement and, and education. Make sure that we're as early as possible in the pregnancy, that they're all into prenatal and we support them through postpartum, et cetera. That data focused deep understanding of where these disparities are showing up and where they need to be addressed is an underlying big piece of the strategy.

Speaker 2: Thank you Norman, for being here. This is such a great conversation with lots for us to reflect on. I wanna move us into the lightning round now. What is giving you hope?

Speaker 1: [00:20:00] The goodness I see in most of the people I come across on this planet. We have more in common than we have points of difference. So that continues to gimme hope.

Speaker 3: What's something new you've learned recently related to the work that you do?

Speaker 1: I knew there were disparities in the system, Kenny. I didn't know they were as deep as they are. Uh, and as prevalent as they are, we've been talking about the black community here a lot today. But for Hispanics, for Native Americans, people in rural communities, seniors, [00:20:30] lgbtq plus go across the, you know, some of the communities and populations. Boy there are real deep needs. So that has surprised me, frankly. We've got a lot of work to do.

Speaker 2: Who has had that biggest impact on who you are today?

Speaker 1: Easy question. My mother, my dearly departed mother, so grew up in inner city Philadelphia, uh, with a sister, five years older than me, single mom situation. She's a school teacher. Never missed a day of work in her entire career. [00:21:00] Uh, work ethic was off the charts and uh, the one thing she sort of embedded into us was belief. And your potential is probably far beyond what you think and what you understand. So always pursue your full potential and that message has carried me.

Speaker 2: That's a beautiful

Speaker 1: Gift. Yep. Thank you.

Speaker 2: I really like Norman's emphasis on community-based [00:21:30] organizations and I'm wondering what groups have really impacted your life, Kenny.

Speaker 3: Yeah, you know what, I've given this a little bit of thought and I can give two good examples. There's a summer program that I think is still running to this day. This program's gotta be 30 plus years old, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. At the time I did it, it was called the Minority Medical Education Program. And what they do is they take students from various underrepresented medicine [00:22:00] minority backgrounds and bring them on to medical school campuses across the country. Uh, when I did it over 20 years ago, there were six different sites. And so I spent the summer after my freshman year at college at Yale with about another, what, 125 students and really got exposure to what the field of medicine is, what is required as a pre-medical student, how to be an effective pre-medical student [00:22:30] and set up your application the the correct way.

Speaker 3: And that set me off from there. I was off to the races and so that program, at least with me, created another black physician for the system. The second example that I'll give is similar to some of the community-based organizations that Norman brought up, the Boys and Girls Club. So I was an active participant in the Boys and Girls Club in North St. Louis growing up where I played baseball and football. And [00:23:00] even though it was focused on sports and activity, it still set me up again for the discipline, for the structure needed to become a physician and then also to live an active and healthy lifestyle. What about you, Kelly? Are there any examples of community-based groups or institutions that have had an impact on your growth and development as an adult?

Speaker 2: I mean, I'm gonna be biased in saying this cuz it's an organization that I founded, but it's called New Leaders Council, twin Cities. And it's a chapter of a national organization. [00:23:30] What is special about what we created in the Twin Cities is that I came back from grad school in New York and New Jersey and actually working at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and being in Minnesota again, I felt like I wanted to work on equity issues. And I didn't know where the community of young people were that weren't just talking about the things that they wanted to see change, but were actually making movement to do that. And so I decided to start that organization to try to convene young people that were doing that. And creating [00:24:00] that sense of community was such an important thing for me because it made me feel less alone in the work.

Speaker 2: And I think oftentimes when you're pushing against something that's so well defined and you're trying to create and dream about new ways of being that we can interact with the system with and with our communities, it's really easy to feel isolated in that experience. And that organization is now, you know, seven years old. We've trained over a hundred young people. Several of our alumni have gone on to elected office. It's a really incredible experience to realize that [00:24:30] it's not just a leadership learning and development program, it's a true community. People have gotten married, they've met their best friends. You know, it's like we're really in this together. And the goal for that organization, which is starting to come to fruition, was that in 10 years after our founding, we would be able to call one another to get things done across the city because it's a cross sector organization. So we have people in nonprofit that are entrepreneurs in private sector and having that real sense of community with people that [00:25:00] are all over in powerful positions to help advance from the same set of values, I think that can transform a city. So I'm really, you know, moved and impacted by the work that continues to exist with that organization, even though I'm no longer involved. And it's one of the things that makes me feel very hopeful about where we're going with equity.

Speaker 3: That's awesome. I think it's great and I applaud people like you who really dig their feet in and invest in communities. And our next guest has done just that [00:25:30] he's no stranger to community groups and created an organization that has been impactful across the globe. We talked with Edward Walton, the co-founder of Black Men Run and the group's Chief Motivation Officer. Here's what he had to say. Well, let's start with you sharing with our listeners a little bit about Black Men Run. What is it, how did you guys start the, the concept? Where did it come from?

Speaker 4: [00:26:00] Black Men Run was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 2013. And um, it was a brainchild and ideal of my co-founder Jason Russell. He and I were, uh, colleagues, peers in our corporate jobs and we noticed that there was a, uh, lack of diversity in the things that we did, particularly road racing. It was very rare in distances that see the number of African Americans, of just people of color period at these races. But at the same time, you know, in everyday [00:26:30] walks we were seeing all the signs that black males weren't taking care of themselves post high school, post-collegiate if they weren't playing one of the big three after college, which is football, basketball, track. And I'm not even talking about the pro aspect of it, just recreational. There was no outlet. Now that has changed in the current date and time. And so we founded Black Men Run to give a vehicle and a medium for African American men to come in and control and take responsibility of their [00:27:00] health and wellbeing.

Speaker 4: And that's just not physical. It was also mental health stress reduction and things along that line. Since then, uh, we've ruined the 49 chapters, uh, in the United States and we have chapters in Japan, Kenya, London. So, you know, why running being the preferred exercise of physical activity of choice, it's easy. The cost of entry is so low. You got landscape, [00:27:30] you got gravity, you get some shoes, you get some companionship. So it was something that doesn't require a lot of external add-ons to be able to go do it. Right. It's simply getting, you know, whatever the run tire that you need, a decent pair of shoes properly fitted and getting out and doing it for as much or as least as you want. So rather than have to get in a car, drive to a gym, find a basketball, get picked up on a team, get a cycle, do all these things while those exercises are good, you can see they're beyond right [00:28:00] now I can go from getting off this podcast and go in and run five miles in about five minutes time for me to change clothes, go downstairs, put my shoes on, put my safety awareness thing on.

Speaker 4: So the barrier to entry is much lower than it is for a lot of other physical activities.

Speaker 2: That makes sense. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the impact that you've seen your organization be able to make?

Speaker 4: Well, one of the things we did was, at the very onset of starting Black Men Run, we wanted to, to ensure [00:28:30] that we were not grouped in into a run club. That is absolutely not what we, we are not, we are a social health network of influence and impact, right? And the things that we've done has been testimonials. If you go to YouTube and look at some of the things where gentlemen have said, I never had a place I could go feel safe where I would be, I'm walking at the beginning and now a year later I'm able to run a complete half marathon and there was no judgment. [00:29:00] We have a couple of pillars that we are here to, the three main are Mac, M a C, that's moderation, accountability and consistency. And we ask that all of our members supporters in leadership operate off those.

Speaker 4: We also have some mantras that No Man left Behind, right. And we are the healthy brotherhood and it is evolved into more of a fraternity, a health fraternity than anything else. And I get stopped at airports whenever I travel, I always travel in the brand. [00:29:30] Mm-hmm. I've had individuals walk up to me and say, Hey, I know you're a chapter in New York. They're doing great things. They're giving out scholarships, they're, they're promoting health fairs. I've had women stop me and say thank you so much. My husband didn't have anywhere to go. He couldn't figure out how to get started. Now he, he looks forward to that weekly run and interaction with his brothers and it has just grown into this healthy fraternity.

Speaker 3: Well, one of the things that I've heard you say is that you don't come [00:30:00] to black men run in shape, you come to black men run to get in shape. And we know oftentimes I think men in general want to come ready made, if you will. Mm-hmm. [affirmative], I mean, and you know, as a physician I would have people that would say, Hey, I'm gonna come and see you for a physical, but I'm gonna get in shape first. And it's like, well, look man, like no, come as you are. So, so my question to you is this, can you share an example of a success story where somebody came as they were and what kind of evolution [00:30:30] in a positive way that person had being a part of Black Man run?

Speaker 4: Yeah, so the example I give won't be specific to any one of our 49 chapters. I mean, these are testimonials that have come from in some form or fashion from numerous chapters. Whereas in our chapter, we had a gentleman, he came in and, uh, you know, he overcome what you correctly stated, the ego. You don't want to be the last guy. You don't want to be the guy that's slow. And during the course of him running [00:31:00] with us for two years, he lost 92 pounds. Wow. Right. His health, it improved his, his demeanor. He said his marriage got better, right? Mm-hmm. [affirmative], he came out with a different energy about himself. And so the, the success that I measured wasn't the physical transformation of his body. It is how he now went and promoted his journey and said, if I can do it, you can do it right.

Speaker 4: And we have skill levels and conditioning levels and ambition levels all the way [00:31:30] up. Some of us just recreational runners, some of them like to compete. I'm highly competitive when I want to be, but more often than not, I'd like to comradery are coming out. And then our gatherings are much more than running. You would be surprised some of the conversations that occur when guys are in a safe zone. Everything from raising family, employment, sexual health, mental health, uh, dating, divorce, we are a support mechanism. We make it very inclusive. The name Blackman runs is just a [00:32:00] designation, but if you look at our chapters, we're hugely diverse, you know? Mm-hmm. [affirmative], we have men that participate that are not African-American, but they come out because they believe in a mission. Now, their underlining reason may be because they, they, they're interacting and they just want be part of the brotherhood.

Speaker 4: So there are so many testimonials. Uh, I I I like to go back to something you said, Dr. Pool. I still to this day hear that, Hey, I'm gonna come run with you guys. I'm just gonna, you know, get tuned up a little bit so I'm not the last guy [00:32:30] to, and make myself look bad. And I'll say it again, you don't come to Black Men run when you are in shape, you come to black men run to get in shape and we'll get you, wherever you're there, we can be part of that journey for you. Whether your mission is a full marathon or if your mission, I wanna run a 5K without stopping. We have the ability to dynamically address whatever needs that our members come to us with. And promotion of health awareness beyond running. And that's been a big thing for us. Uh, [00:33:00] having individuals who have the medical expertise and knowledge like yourself, Dr. Poo, who often leaders within that chapter facilitates our members to take care of themselves and be more aware about why they need to do this. And I can get into the reasons why they really need to have some type of wellbeing initiative. Mm-hmm.

Speaker 2: [affirmative], I, this is so amazing. I mean, as you're talking, I'm thinking about two things, and one is really inspiring confidence in people and doing that through [00:33:30] the relationships that you're supporting them in, but also just by demonstrating to them what they're really capable of. And I think it is really powerful when you feel like you understand what your body can do and you push yourself to your limits and you're able to overcome that. The other thing I'm thinking about is real community and not community just in a shared interest, but like deep relationships. And I'm thinking a lot about some of the men in my life who have reflected to me that they don't have safe spaces like that where they can have authentic conversations, [00:34:00] where they can be vulnerable, where they can ask for help, where they feel safe. And so it, it's nice that there's a shared activity, but it's almost like the deeper thing that's really happening, even if that's not the sole purpose, that's definitely one of the outcomes is to have these like really incredible relationships that transcend just the time that you're spending together running, but like lifelong relationships.

Speaker 2: And I think that's really beautiful.

Speaker 4: You said confidence and that's the thing, you know, confidence is something [00:34:30] that it's there, but it just has to have a, a medium to manifest and being able to have your body perform because you know, you've done the things to go out and compete or to exercise, that builds confidence. The other thing is, you were talking about a safe space and all of these things, yes, it goes beyond gatherings. If you are part of our regular routine and we haven't seen you for a while, we check in on you. We do [00:35:00] wellness checks, just like, Hey, we haven't seen you. You generally don't ever miss a run. And, and then we get, hey, I moved, I took on a different shift. Hey, I'm getting ready to get deployed, has uh, injuries, you know, and we keep very good check-ins and monitoring of our guys, right? We can tell when someone's having something's going on. Right. Especially when they're a regular. So we have Staples, uh, and some guys don't come cuz it's cold and some guys don't come because it's hot. I love hot, right? So I could, I could run in [00:35:30] Phoenix all day, run in Minneapolis, no day [laugh] [laugh].

Speaker 2: That's great. Thank you so much for joining us today. Let's go to the lightning round and start with our first question. What gives you hope

Speaker 4: Youth, one of our biggest initiatives that we gotta get more young people and the early we can get them to understand that your health is beyond your youth. There's going to come a time, I'm 54, I'll be 55 here pretty soon, and your youth [00:36:00] protects you, but if you protect your gift, they won't betray you when you get older.

Speaker 3: What's something you've learned recently?

Speaker 4: I learned that this idea of this symbol, this brotherhood is bigger and more important than I thought. I did not think it was going to be this. I really, we went from Southern chapters, Atlanta, Tennessee, you know, to Carolina to next thing I know, we are the largest African American health focused network in the world. I know you'll see some of these others, [00:36:30] but those are run clubs. We do so much more and we are so much more than a run club.

Speaker 3: I really appreciate it. I, I mean, I enjoyed listening to you and I want to thank you and actually I wanna thank you on two different levels, right? So from the standpoint of the purpose of this podcast and looking at how we can build a better health system that works better for everyone, I thank you because your group is filling in a huge gap [00:37:00] that's within our health system and that's taking care of African American males. That's where we're, we are not as a health system doing a good job. And we see that in life expectancy. We see that in terms of disease and health disparities and your group is filling in that void and helping to move the needle in that regard in terms of engagement and empowerment. So I want to thank you there. And then I also wanna thank you personally because again, as a runner, it's good knowing that that brotherhood and that connection [00:37:30] is out there.

Speaker 3: And you know, I've not only gone to races with guys and we've, you know, wrapped the brand, but I've gone to races by myself and rep the brand and again, felt empowered. And then I've gone to races in other cities and I've met other guys who had on the shirts too. And all of a sudden it's like, okay, great. And it's almost like I, I have an automatic friend that I know is running the race with me as well. So I thank you for the organization, what you've done for me personally and for your motivation.

Speaker 2: [00:38:00] I really loved talking to Ed. I specifically thought that his comments about the sense of community that's created, the real relationships that are created in addition to the run club is just so cool. And I think that's what's really special about some of these organizations is they set out with an intention to do one thing and it ends up being something so much bigger than what the founders can even see for themselves, even speaking for myself. And it really feels like he's cultivated something very, [00:38:30] very special to a lot of people.

Speaker 3: Yep. And I'm glad you mentioned the parallel to your organization because one of the things that stuck out to me in the conversation was just his passion for what he's created and the passion that he still has for it, right? Yeah. Even as it's doing amazingly well, he still, it's just as passionate about it as if he created it yesterday. And you seem to also have that same zeal, if you will, [00:39:00] when speaking about the nonprofit that you started. So I think that's a really cool thing.

Speaker 2: Yeah, thank you. I definitely felt some similarity in the conversation and I think, you know, it's really hopefully inspiring for our audience too, to be able to hear about how it can be as simple as starting to gather people and just going for a run. Mm-hmm. [affirmative], you know, there's obviously a lot more that gets put into creating an organization, but it started with that intention and it was very simple. And he comments on that where he says, running [00:39:30] is the easiest, most accessible form of working out, right? Like, you just need a pair of shoes. And so I really appreciated that dimension of the conversation as well.

Speaker 3: You know, I think that next week's topic is going to pair extremely well with the topic that we had today. I mean, when we talk about people being healthier and living their lives better, at its core we talk about exercise and we also talk about healthy eating. And so for next week's bonus episode, we'll be speaking to gastroenterologist and [00:40:00] trained chef Dr. Ed McDonald. He'll be sharing tips on how to eat healthier and why it's so important.

Speaker 2: That's it for today. Thank you for listening. Make sure to follow or subscribe wherever you listen. You can get notified when a new episode is live. Catch you next time.