Nefertiti Clavon is thankful to have parents who raised her in a home that emphasized healthy habits, but she is still no stranger to heart disease. Several in her family have been affected by diabetes and stroke. This family history– combined with her work toward a degree in health education and promotion– opened Nefertiti’s eyes to the challenges facing many Americans, especially those in undeserved communities.
“I’ve learned through my work that it’s easy to tell people to live healthier,” Nefertiti says. “But when you see that people have limited access to healthy foods because their neighborhood has only convenience stores, or they have nowhere to exercise because their parks aren’t safe, you realize how big this issue really is.”
Nefertiti volunteers with the Children and Neighborhoods Defeating Obesity (CAN DO Houston), a grassroots program in Houston. Through CAN DO, a program housed in M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Nefertiti offers hands-on training to parents and kids to help improve their lifestyle habits.
“We don’t just tell people what to eat but we show them how to cook things healthily and let them taste it,” Nefertiti says. “Parents in our program will see their kids eat something made with wheat flour rather than white flour and see that their kids will not only eat it, but they actually enjoy it!”
Nefertiti is also passionate about access to affordable health care. This issue hit especially close to home when she was a freshman in college with no health insurance and a kidney infection landed her in the hospital. Her bill equaled a semester’s tuition payment, and it took several years to pay it off.
“Since my hospital stay, I’ve discovered there are many resources for people to get help paying for care, but it’s not easily accessible and you really have to know where to look,” Nefertiti says. “I’m hopeful my degree will allow me to help people work their way through the healthcare system so they can take better care of themselves.”
As a current Go Red For Women national volunteer and a recipient of the Go Red Multicultural Scholarship, Nefertiti hopes to influence her 20-something peers to get involved with issues that really make an impact on people’s lives. While her aspirations include a Ph.D. and a job at an organization like the American Heart Association, CDC or World Health Organization, Nefertiti aims to inspire other women to make a difference in the fight against heart disease through a simple gesture: volunteering.
“When you look at the media today there is so much emphasis in our culture on making money, rather than on taking care of our health and our families,” she says. “I would love to see more young women prioritize health and get involved in helping their communities through causes like Go Red For Women.”