​Take Control of Your Health

Published in partnership with RA


Augustus A. White, III, MD, PhD

Professor of Medical Education and Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts ​ 

James E. Wood Jr., MD
Orthopedic Surgeon, Chief of Orthopedics, MedStar Harbor Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland


As African American orthopedic surgeons operating in the US health system, we have spent our entire careers helping people get back “in the game” after bone and joint injury or disease that resulted in immobility and disability.  We have taken all comers and have always done the best we could to be of service to all.  However, it is recognized that in our healthcare system, African Americans, ethnic minorities and women have historically experienced poorer outcomes in a number of disease categories and in care of their musculoskeletal health. Factors identified for these differences, called disparities, include poor general health, a sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, obesity, untreated depression and poverty.  Implicit and explicit biases also exist among healthcare providers and patients, both of which contribute to these disparities.

We want to emphasize the fact that there is every opportunity to change this reality for patients who commit to a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a consistent level of activity.  Undeniably, there are inherent challenges in any effort to provide equitable healthcare for everyone in America, but we believe our nation’s health resources are sufficient to achieve such a goal, if there is strong will and determination on the part of patients and potential patients. 

Each of us must do our part to start from as healthy a place as possible.  As physicians, we have come to recognize that how patients approach their health can be a gateway or a barrier to their access to orthopedic care.  We regularly remind patients that they absolutely must take personal responsibility for the health of their bodies because how they manage their health will affect the way they are perceived when they present for medical care. Patients who present with knowledge and action around healthy habits--from what you eat to how you do, or do not use your body--matters, because it impacts how well you will respond to treatment.

Physicians admire and are motivated to be part of the health team for a patient who is working proactively to avoid the ravages of chronic disease. Nutrition and exercise are critical to controlling the effects of chronic afflictions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and even the pain of arthritis. One key indicator of health is a patient’s activity level, so if a patient is committed to being mobile, she will have a distinct health advantage over her sedentary counterparts.

Pain is the main complaint that brings the aging patient to the orthopedic specialist. Arthritis, in its various forms, is usually the culprit. It is a significant challenge for caregivers to alleviate arthritis pain when a patient continues to lead a sedentary, inactive lifestyle. Read more at Start Living, Start Moving