Dr. Michael Minor will be a keynote speaker at the 2012 Colorado Health Symposium, July 25-27 at Keystone Resort & Conference Center. The theme of this year's Symposium, "Health Equity: Bridging the Divides," focuses on real-world solutions to challenges in health and health care.
Banning fried chicken from church gatherings might strike some from the Deep South as sacrilegious, but it's one way Dr. Michael Minor spreads the gospel of healthy eating.
Dr. Minor is the undershepherd of Oak Hill Baptist Church in the Mississippi Delta – a region that leads the rest of the nation in obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
"A lot of people – not only in this church, but in the churches we fellowship with – were a good size," Minor said in a New York Times profile. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you're that weight, you're going to have health issues."
For more than a decade, Minor has taken aim at the obesity epidemic from the pulpit – going against a culture where fried chicken is always served with a heaping spoonful of mashed potatoes and gravy, and where collard greens boiled in salty pork is considered a staple of church dinners. Since the Delta is one of the poorest areas in the country, fast, fatty food is perceived as less expensive to eat than healthy alternatives such as fresh produce. As a result, many area residents suffer from chronic health problems.
Deciding enough was enough, Minor declared a moratorium on fried chicken, soda and salty, nutritionally challenged foods at his church. Now, church gatherings consist of walks and heaping platters of fresh fruit and salads. One congregant dropped several hundred pounds after converting to a largely meat-free diet.
Since efforts by the state to encourage healthier eating in schools fell short of expectations, many hope spiritual leaders can help address the problem.
Though Minor concedes that it will take time and energy to help the faithful acquire a taste for healthy eating, he's hopeful his neighbors will see the light.
"We can make the Delta healthy again," Minor told the Times. "We didn't get into this mess overnight. We're certainly not going to get out of it overnight."
Minor has worked with numerous individuals and groups, including collaborating with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign. He is also the national director of the Health and Human Services Partnership of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc. – the nation's largest African American religious denomination.
A published researcher, Minor provides advisory services for several local, regional and national faith-based health and wellness initiatives. He will be a plenary speaker on Day Two of the 2012 Colorado Health Symposium, addressing the plenary theme "Does Health Live in Your Zip Code? Creating Healthy Communities."