Demetria McKinney, Singer/Actress: Blog

National Minority Health Month

My son is my Red Lip Story.

As a military brat, I had life covered, especially health wise. But once life at home got hard, I was on my own. My mother’s husband was into me way more than a step father/father should ever be. Everyone, with the exception of a few, looked at me as ” the problem” versus helping me out of it.

I fought depression, undeserved guilt, thoughts of suicide, and ended up homeless. The “estranged” part of my family took me in after a bit and I was able to start building my life…only to find I was pregnant. I was a teenager, barely making it on my own and now I have the responsibility of a whole person’s life?!?! The pity I could have had, the hardship I knew was coming, all took a backseat to the opportunity for love and growth.

From the first time I heard my sons heartbeat, I was a fan. I had to be strong, healthy, HERE. I had to be HERE for him. Daekwon is my red lip story and has been ever since. Who is yours?

– Demetria McKinney

Ashanti Johns – National Power Ambassador

Ashanti Johnson headshot

Twitter: ashanti360
Instagram: _ashanti360

Stories from the Soul: Ashanti Johnson

“Until we practice making real behavioral changes, we will keep repeating the same unhealthy cycles.”

– Ashanti Johnson, National Power Ambassador

National Power Ambassador, fitness expert and founder of 360.Mind.Body.Soul (360MBS), Ashanti Johnson, has created a fun-loving environment that encourages women of color to get fit through self-love and mental fitness in addition to physical fitness.

Johnson, who is now certified in Group Fitness and Personal Training through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) as well as Senior Fitness and Pound, was not always in total control of her weight. Originally from Los Angeles, California, Johnson battled weight gain throughout her teens and 20s before making an environmental and mental shift that changed her perspective on life and loving herself. “Throughout my young adulthood, I allowed the unhealthy habits and mindset of my environment to rub off on me. Once I removed myself from my environment, I shifted internally and my external naturally followed. Through my story, I encourage others to not let external factors have power over your decision to get healthy,” says Johnson.

After moving to Chicago, Il, Johnson opened a total mind and body health and wellness studio. In addition to physical workouts, Ashanti has made strides in the Chicagoland area to combat the social determinants of health which are the constructs in which people live, work, play, pray and age. All gym members are encouraged to release their negative thoughts about weight and adopt a positive outlook on their circumstances, including food choices, that are within their control. “Food is often celebrated in our culture, but can often be made a crutch that can control our subconscious.”

Ashanti found that changing her mindset and releasing external stressors helped to change the results of her weight loss journey. This revelation has sparked her to encourage others to adopt the same positive outlook on their relationship with external factors. “Food is made to keep our bodies healthy; it shouldn’t be a stress reliever that makes us feel good and tucks us in at night”.

In less than 5 years, Ashanti has transformed the minds and bodies of Chicago women of color through a rigorous, yet fun program that focuses on both physical and “mental fitness.” With over 60 fitness classes offered per week, 360 Mind.Body.Soul not only features teachers who have overcome their own battles with physical activity and weight, but also caters to the working person who is trying to fit a workout into their busy schedule. 360 MBS offers childcare so that working parents have no excuse to stay active and offers a natural juice bar inside the gym. She is a pioneer on the forefront of addressing health issues facing our communities of color in the greater Chicagoland area.

Research shows that minority communities (predominantly Latino, African-American and of low-socio economic) are two to three times more likely to have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital and 30% are less likely to receive bystander CPR – cutting their chances of survival.

These stats are alarming, but instead of cowering away, Ashanti has accepted the call to help spread awareness and Hands only CPR training to her gym members and guests.

Ashanti has designated Memorial Day in May as the ultimate pre-summer workout. For the past six years, “360.Mind.Body.Soul MASTERPLAN Memorial Day” event has encouraged men and women to attend and workout in a fun, judgement-free environment before they hit the afternoon barbecues. In 2016, Ashanti teamed up with the American Heart Association’s EmPOWERED To Serve™ program to train participants on how to perform Hands-Only CPR. The event also offered free high blood pressure screenings and encouraged participants to learn more about heart disease and stroke. By encouraging a holistic approach to weight loss, Ashanti Johnson continues to raise health awareness through education which helps 360 MBS members, event participants, their family and friends enjoy longer, healthy and fulfilling lives.

To get a taste of Ashanti’s 360 Mind.Body.Soul. experience, visit for 10 at-home workouts you can do in the pleasure of your home or hotel room.

Did You Know Place Matters?: Blog

This is a health and environment graphic showing health is related to neighborhood, employment, housing, food security, social capital, and education.

By Kristi Durazo

Interesting story about how place affects health factors. Twin brothers, both astronauts. One goes into space for 340 days. The other stays on the ground. Researchers are now studying the brothers’ relative health. Early indications are that there are very remarkable differences in their genetic and metabolic structures and other health factors.

SDOH-callout1The reality is that place matters on the planet as well as off. In New Orleans, life expectancy in one neighborhood is 55 years and only 5 miles away, it is 80. In Philadelphia, the gap in life expectancy between zip codes is 20 years. Just like the contrast of space vs. Earth, the differences in neighborhoods and their opportunity to access resources like healthy food, education, good jobs, banks, doctors, stable housing are just as stark.

Some experts suggest that your zip code is a bigger determinant of your health than is your DNA. And other research suggests that continued exposure to the stresses of poverty, unemployment, and poor housing can actually alter the structure of your DNA, compounded over generations. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Education–People with more education are likely to live longer and to experience better health outcomes. 50 percent of Asian and 31 percent of non-Hispanic white adults are college graduates, compared with 17 percent of non-Hispanic black and 13 percent of Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native adults. The Brookings Institute, in a report on the widening gap in SAT scores, stated, “Blacks in particular lag far behind, with an average score of 428 out of 800, significantly below the average score of 534 for whites and 598 for Asians.” “…as SAT scores predict student success in college, inequalities in SAT score distributions reflect and reinforce racial inequalities across generations.” Education matters.
  • Employment–Education provides the knowledge and skills necessary for employment, which can shape health in many ways. More education generally means a greater likelihood of being employed and of having a job with healthier working conditions, better employment-based benefits and higher wages. Where you work matters.
  • Housing–The shortage of affordable housing limits families’ and individuals’ choices about where they live, often relegating lower-income families to substandard housing in unsafe, overcrowded neighborhoods with higher rates of poverty and fewer resources. The results of this dynamic prevents families from meeting other basic needs including nutrition and health care. Additionally, rates of home ownership are lower for communities of color. Where you live matters.
SDOH-callout1All of these factors are intertwined with other related issues…access to transportation, lack of upward mobility, exposure to pollution, crime, incarceration, racism, social justice are all aspects of social determinants of health. AHA’s Scientific Statement on Social Determinants of Health states “…we must now broaden the focus (of health advancement) to incorporate a third arm of risk, the social determinants of health.” To do so, the AHA must remain true to its values to “meet people where they are,” because place matters for all of us.

February observes Black History Month, a time to honor and celebrate the rich culture and traditions of African-American people. When it comes to health matters, it’s no secret African Americans are disproportionately affected by heart disease and stroke. Therefore, it is especially critical for this community to continue to strive toward raising awareness about social determinants of health, sharing resources, uniting and advocating to prevent and beat cardiovascular diseases and risk factors that can be eliminated through simple healthy habits. To learn more, please visit and become an ambassador or access culturally relevant resources.  

Photo of Kristi Durazo

–Kristi Durazo

Kristi Durazo is the Senior Strategy Advisor and social determinant of health expert at the American Heart Association. She has over 20 years of service with the AHA.

About “Take Me Home”

In 2017, EmPOWERED To Serve™ (ETS) is asking YOU to “Take Me Home.” Take Me Home is a Social Determinant’s of Health campaign that will follow a mixture of local and celebrity ETS Ambassadors and encourage everyday ambassadors like yourself, to take us on a journey into your community by showing the conditions in which you survive and thrive.

Q. What are the Social Determinants of Health?

A. They are the constructs in which people live, work, play, pray and age.

We can’t do this without you!

  • First, we want to make the connection that Social Determinants of Health have a direct impact on heart health, stroke and high blood pressure, conditions that the American Heart Association has impacted significantly.
  • Second, we want YOU to use AHA tools and resources to drive sustainable change in your community.

In April, we will highlight all of the work that you have done in your area by implementing actions found at and created by your squad/group/organization.

We need YOU to help bring this campaign to life by taking an action in your community starting this January around National Day of Service!

Joining has never been easier!
3 easy steps will lead to impact:

  1. ets-home-cropGrab Your Squad – Get your organization or group of friends together to make a collective impact in your community.
  2. Pick an action or a few actions that will not only educate, but drive lasting impact in your area.
  3. Make An Impact – Take action toward your impact goals on National Day of Service (January 16, 2017)

Goals & Impact

  1. Help us reach our goal to impact the health of 4.6 million multicultural Americans by pledging to take an action by registering as an ambassador ( and completing one or five actions found on our homepage. Actions should be completed between January and April.
  2. Share your Day of Service events with us. We want to add your event to our website to help drive ambassadors in your area to assist. Please send all activities

Additional Opportunities

  1. Picture (and/or video) of the Day
    Give us a glimpse into your reality through pictures. Do you live in a food desert? Do you have easier access to fast food than fresh food options? Are community gardens providing new ways to empower your neighborhood? Share your story through images on Facebook. Submissions will be featured daily with a premium prize awarded weekly.
  2. Facebook Live Events
    Share your events with us via Facebook. We can reshare your live posts to highlight the great work you are doing to positively impact your communities heart health.
  3. Check back in at periodically for contests, blogs and other impactful activities that will be added between January and April.
  4. Blog Opportunities
    We want to hear your stories of survival! If and when you and your squad implement any actions, share them with us for an opportunity to be featured on the website and newsletter!

Recommendation, Timing & Locations

January 16
National Day of Service (MLK Day) Campaign Kick off

January 31
NFL Play60 Virtual Field Trip (digital activation targeted for students, teachers etc.)

January – April
Complete your action and share with others in your network. Get creative! Feel free to create challenges, partner with local AHA affiliates, share within your network etc. Please remember to share your events and outcomes with us!


You Are Why

You Are Why the American Heart Association gives thanks, for all of the ways you help us save millions of lives.

Lift Every Voice: Blog

Photo of Denisa Livingston

From the voice of an AHA Native American National Ambassador and Community Health Advocate:

“Yá’át’ééh (good greetings). The month of November is a precious time to honor the histories and sacrifices of my people, the Native people. It is a time to acknowledge the diverse cultures and traditions of the first inhabitants of this country. It is a time to celebrate the contributions and achievements of enduring tribal nations. It is a time to celebrate our existence. It is a time to share, to teach truth, and to impart what has been forgotten, what has never been taught, and what should be taught. It is an opportunity to learn and discover the fundamentals of our survival, reality, and presence.

Our ancestors endured and persevered so we could exist today, not only to survive, but indeed, thrive. As we plan for healthy future generations, we need to commit to protect and care for this earth and in return the earth will protect and care for us. Our relationship with the environment and nature is a responsibility that we need to value and embrace.

Our present is a gift of the future. As an individual or an entity, make a commitment to meet challenges with gratitude and live with an expectation to improve the lives of those around you. Live #OnPurpose and take action through the resources and opportunities available to us. It is a time to re-prioritize, re-evaluate, and re-engage or simply begin to engage in what matters most – our health. Choose to be a healthy steward of this earth. This month provides an opportunity to make a commitment to be a champion of healthy change for our heart and brain health.

It is an honor to partner with the American Heart Association to address our health in Indian Country. It is a priority and privilege to empower tribal communities to lead a healthy lifestyle and simultaneously address the epidemics so we can continue to celebrate our existence with dignity, strength, and courage.

I invite you to join me in advocating for heart-healthy tribal citizens. Looking forward, I see future indigenous generations, living a longer healthier lifestyle with meaning, depth, and purpose.

Today is the day to make the choice to be the best you. Live a life to inspire others. Make this National American Indian and Alaskan Native Month a life-changing one.
Be blessed.”

–Denisa Livingston

Denisa Livingston is a tribal member of the Navajo Nation. Her mission is to improve the lives of others and her purpose is to empower her community. She is committed to addressing the diabetes epidemic, the dominant culture of “ch’iyáán bizhool” or unhealthy foods, and the lack of healthy food access on the Navajo Nation. Denisa is a national ambassador for the American Heart Association’s multicultural movement, EmPowered To Serve and a volunteer community health advocate for the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance (DCAA). DCAA has been globally recognized for several laws, the first of its kind in a food desert: Elimination of Tax on Healthy Foods, an Unhealthy Foods Tax or the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014, and a tax revenue allocation for Community Wellness Projects. Denisa received a bachelor’s degree and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is a graduate of both Leadership San Juan and Leadership New Mexico Connect programs. Denisa is one of the Advisory Committee members of the recently launched Reclaiming Native Truth: A Project to Dispel America’s Myths and Misconceptions. Last fall, she was a W.K. Kellogg Foundation nominee and Slow Food international delegate of the International Indigenous Terra Madre event in India. This fall, she was selected again for the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto event in Italy and was one of the representatives of the indigenous Turtle Island Slow Food Association. Connect with her on social media and be inspired (@PrincesseDenisa).

Let’s Get Social


This Holiday season, EmPOWERED To Serve™ (ETS) is gifting you and your family with #12GiftsofLife. Visit our Facebook page each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas (December 14 until Christmas Day) for a chance to win a prize pack valued at $85.00!

Getting your ETS gift is so EASY!

  1. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Share the daily gift with your friends by tagging 3 people. Make sure you add #EmPOWEREDToServe.
  3. Top Sharer’s will be entered into a drawing for an EmPOWERED To Serve prize pack, perfect for Christmas! The winner will be announced on December 22, 2016 via Facebook.


Previous Promotions

Tweet with us!

Join us on twitter to celebrate #Natives4Heart

November 29, noon – 1 pm CST


Recognizing World Heart Day!

In recognition of #WorldHeartDay, this Thursday 9/29, The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women and #CentricTV invite you to view and share Yewande Austin’s story, using the hashtag #HeartCentric. Our goal is to generate more awareness of heart disease as we know how critical it is to educate and alert our communities! Thank you for your kind support in spreading this compelling video. #WHD2016


Hispanic Heritage Month 2016

EmPOWERED To Serve celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month and recognizes the impact that diverse audiences make in and on our everyday lives. Join us on Twitter, October 6, 1-2pm CT, to dialogue about why #DiversityIsWhy

Host handle: @Power2EndStroke
Participants: @MinorityHealth

Tweet with you soon!

Brain Health


It’s never too late to start your journey towards better brain health. What you put in your stomach now affects your brain later – including your ability to think, remember and process information. Research has shown that the healthiest eaters at age 50 had a nearly 90 percent lower risk of dementia compared to those who had the least healthy diets.

Physical fitness is the other key to maintaining brain health. Being physically active in midlife could improve your brain function decades from now. This means that the type of activity you do isn’t as important as being active. Choose what you enjoy and stick with it. Your brain will thank you.

Take our Brain Health Quiz to learn ways you can improve your brain health.

To learn more about aphasia and about ways you can improve your brain health, visit


GoRedGetFit-team Beginning in December, members of Go Red Get Fit are challenged to “Follow the Lead to Flawless” by committing to physical activity and limited saturated fat consumption to 13 grams a day. Also in December, keep your eyes open for the Go Red Get Fit Red Dress Collection giveaway generously donated by Macy’s. Join the group now at

GoRedGetFit is a Facebook group, co-created by the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women® and Macy’s. This is a unique forum hosted by three professional fitness trainers who encourage women to get fit for life and reduce their risk of heart disease — the No.1 killer of women. Through fun and engaging quarterly challenges these trainers want to help you achieve your optimum fitness. 4-Follow

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