Experts say there’s a clear link between where you live and how easy it is to be healthy. “Your health outcomes are determined as much by your ZIP code as by your genetic code,” says Dr. Ram Raju, senior vice president and community health investment officer at Northwell Health. “This is a great group of women trying to make a difference in a hostile environment.”
Ericka is one of the women running to make a difference for herself and her adopted community. She lives on Long Island, but works in Brownsville as the operations manager for the Brownsville Community Justice Center. She empathizes with the residents. She looks like them. She has their same health struggles. In 2009, Ericka weighed more than 300 pounds before undergoing bariatric surgery, and then gained 100 pounds back after having her son in 2011. She worked out sometimes, but not regularly. Aching joints and fatigue plagued the busy, hard-working single mother. How would she ever have the time or energy to work out? Initially, when a coworker invited her to join the running group, she declined. “I’m not a runner,” she thought. “I know I’m not going to be able to do it.”
Ericka’s world changed dramatically a few months later. Her mother—who suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure—began struggling to breathe while the family watched TV together one night in June 2016. She died that summer.
“Her death reminded me that I had to do everything I could to be healthy and to be here for my son,” Ericka said. She joined a gym and got a personal trainer. When the opportunity to join We Run Brownsville came again that fall, she took it.