Myrtle Beach – Knoxville in Walk USA for Health Equity

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Reflections on a Health Equity Walk and Talk Pilgrimage Through 3 Southern States

The takeaway from these 29 memory-filled days, from Myrtle Beach to Knoxville, is the extreme kindness shown to a stranger.

I wasn’t Dr. Godby on the road. I was just a stranger passing by. The stranger, who always looked out of place, often seemed homeless and periodically looked ridiculous compared to how the locals appeared in public. I have often reflected on the opportunity that being a white man affords me to make this 605 mile journey without the fear for safety that some women and people of color may have had to endure regardless of their physical stamina and endurance. The walk reaffirmed my belief that most people will help strangers when given the opportunity, especially if approached with humility, gratitude, and respect. I reaffirmed that people are also generous.

44 years of pilgrimage

While cross-country walks alone will not lead to greater health equity, I have felt in 44 years of such pilgrimages that people tend to trust the messenger and open their hearts to the message because the method of advocacy seems sincere . The thinking goes something like this: If someone is going to go to all this to get a message across, maybe I should at least pay attention. This was very evident even with US Senators in 2011 when my two sons, nephew and I testified about naturopathic medicine on Capitol Hill during the Run for the USA.

One of the goals of Walk USA for Health Equity is to raise awareness of the term health equity. While disparities and inequities in health outcomes for “mainstream” workers, older adults, and people of color have often been highlighted during the pandemic, much education and conversation is needed around this term. The conversations I had during the first leg of The Walk allowed me to participate in the discussion and learn about Americans’ everyday awareness and concern for equitable health care for all. All the people I spoke to, without exception, whether they had heard the term health equity or not, seemed to embrace this idea. It seemed “unreasonable” to most. Of course, “the devil is in the details,” but at least the concept of health equity was promoted. Everyone, without exception, believes that all Americans deserve the opportunity to lead optimally healthy lifestyles.

What is health equity?

It is when “everyone has a fair and equitable opportunity to be optimally healthy. This requires removing barriers to health, such as poverty, discrimination and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good, fair-paid work, quality education and housing, a safe environment and health care.”

Throughout the walk, especially at the beginning, I occasionally wondered if it was ridiculous for me to fly to the East Coast to start walking across the US for health justice. I mean, does anyone really care? Does it even matter? At times like these, I remind myself that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said 6 decades ago, “Of all forms of inequality, health care inequity is the most shocking and inhumane.” I agree, so I walk and talk. How Naturopathic doctor, Health equity means not only fair access to traditional medicine, but also preventive, natural and lifestyle medicine.
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I was constantly reminded that local connections were critical to the effectiveness of my efforts. Where we had local connections, such as Myrtle Beach and Chapel Hill, the media came to the event. Making connections between those you know and their local connections in the cities we pass through will be a big focus in Phase 2. If you or people you know live in Knoxville, TN; Louisville, Frankfort and Lexington, Kentucky; West Lafayette, Indianapolis and Valparaiso University, Indiana; Chicago, IL and Milwaukee, WI please let me know.

Safety on the road

Pedestrian on Dr. Godby's Highway

People asked and wondered about highway safety. It was definitely a cause for concern, but with extra vigilance, wearing reflective clothing and listening carefully for cars behind me and those approaching on busy two-lane highways with no curbs, I quickly developed a strategy and waved at oncoming cars and trucks with a friendly, but by what appeared to be a warning signal (with one wave of the hand and a wave of the hat in extreme circumstances), and it was of great importance. So the stranger is behaving strangely.

This walk has inspired many! I am very grateful for all the wonderful and charming people I have met along the way. The naturopathic doctors I met or stopped at along the way really made sure I felt supported and provided me with the good cheer, camaraderie and encouragement I needed to keep going. I’m also thrilled with how my body and mind have responded to 22 miles a day, and I’m definitely looking forward to next year’s walk from Knoxville, Tennessee to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The next stage of the journey

I’m excited to hear how you decide to participate in next year’s walk, which will tentatively begin on September 5, 2023. What can you do today and in the coming weeks and year to help this country achieve health equity? Are you going to vote in the upcoming election? Can you spread the message of health equity? Will you help us on Instagram and Facebook? There are so many things we can do to make the nation more equitable in health care. Please talk to your friends, colleagues and families along the stage 2 route to see how they would like to get involved.

While I am very pleased with the results of Phase 1, we have only just begun. will you help us We are building a team.

»» Learn more at https://walkusaforhealthequity.org/

Dr. Dennis Godby

Dr. Dennis Godby, a naturopathic physician at the Sutter Medical Foundation.
It can be achieved SAC-ND.com , Facebook or at his Sacramento office at (916) 446-2591.

Explore more topics from Dr. Godby at Natural health.

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