Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. A day to remember his dream of equality as well as the work that's been done by many to make that dream a reality.
Today I am reminded of my trip this summer to Washington, D.C.
While I had been to D.C. before, I had not yet seen the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial that was erected in 2011. I had seen pictures of it's construction and on one of the most beautiful days in May I was finally able to see the Memorial in person. It took my breath away.
After short walk from the Lincoln Memorial where MLK delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, I entered the Memorial through two slabs of granite. "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope" is inscribed on one slab, a powerful line from MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech.
The photo's doesn't do the monument justice. I couldn't capture the immense size and power of the Memorial with a camera.
Martin Luther King, Jr. day is a reminder to us all that more work is needed to fulfill Dr. King's dream of equality. One particular inequality that stands out to me surrounds tobacco use. The graph below pulls data on the impacts of tobacco and it makes disparities in tobacco use pretty obvious.
We've seen tobacco rates declining and in December 2014 the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced a record low smoking rate of 18%. Unfortunately, compared to the overall number, specific populations (see below graph) did not experience that same all time low.
It's no coincidence that these populations smoke at higher rates than the state average. Marketing of tobacco products is heavily targeted to these specific communities. And they aren't the only groups disproportionately affected by tobacco. Those affected by mental illness smoke at a MUCH higher rate than the national average.
re:TH!NK and coalitions all throughout the state are working to decrease tobacco disparities in our community by connecting adults with quit smoking resources and involving youth and adults in local tobacco prevention and control activities.
Today, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let's remember the dream of equality and the strides we have taken as a country to get there. While work is still needed to achieve equality, we are on our way. We can make Dr. King's dream a reality.