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The automobile maker Chrysler Group LLC, has recently called journalists within the black community to action. Chrysler has teamed up with the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) to encourage members of the media to raise awareness regarding health and wellness issues impacting these communities.

The program started on May 25th and consists of two phases. The first involves a 30-Day Wellness Challenge where the Detroit and Chicago NABJ chapters compete against the NAHJ Los Angeles and New York chapters in a pedometer step off. The team with the most steps is rewarded with scholarship dollars the organizations can use to support aspiring journalists. In a pilot program the Chicago chapter was awarded $5,000.

The second phase of the program will consist of the Chrysler Group hosting a health pavilion at the NABJ and NAHJ national conventions. The pavilions will focus on key areas of wellness including health screenings, strategies for reducing stress, exercise and nutrition, which are all concerns within the African-American and Hispanic communities.

I can’t help but applaud Chrysler for their leadership in promoting wellness for blacks, however this initiative does make me a bit skeptical.

Anyone who was around following the release of the Chrysler 300 is aware of how successful that vehicle was within the black community. Reuters even conducted research and found that African Americans were five times more likely to purchase this vehicle than other races. This should be of no surprise since this classy, powerful ride was designed by renowned African American engineer Ralph Gilles who surely would have known how to appeal to the African-American car buyer.

However, since its debut back in 2004, the Chrysler 300 has not been able to reach more than 100,000 in sales it once had. So is Chrysler just using this minority health and wellness program as a ploy to get some cheap marketing from African-American journalists?  Or is this a genuine attempt by a major automaker to bring light to an important issue? I’m not convicted of the latter.

I’m thinking: Why focus on journalists? Major corporations have the financing to go out in the communities and actually make a difference. Bringing awareness is only the first step, but actually helping those in need and seeing through on the execution of preventative checkups, fitness programs, access to nutritious foods etc. is what is necessary. A $5,000 reward that isn’t even being used directly for minority health and wellness betterment doesn’t sound like a well-deployed program with the intent to really make a difference.

When it comes to the health disparities within the African-American community the numbers are staggering with minorities more likely to die from a variety of health issues, more reliant on federal health care, and almost twice as likely as whites to be uninsured. These issues do deserve attention and I would return the challenge to the Chrysler Group by requesting they put their money where our mouths are. Create a collaboration between African-American journalists that gets the message of health and wellness awareness out to the black community, but also write the checks to make a real impact and not just attempt to sell more Chrysler 300s.

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