Dennis Godby, a naturopathic doctor in Sacramento, Calif., visited Chapel Hill this Wednesday as a part of his 610-mile walk to promote health equity and highlight the use of naturopathic medicine.
Godby’s walk began in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Sept. 12 and will end in Knoxville, Tenn., on Oct. 10, according to a press release. He plans to walk one-fifth of the country each year to highlight health conditions in many American communities of color and promote health equity so everyone has the opportunity to be healthy.
Naturopathic medicine is a healthcare profession combining the "wisdom" of nature with the "rigors" of modern science, according to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Naturopathic doctors usually attend a four-year, graduate-level school rather than medical school.
Godby said he has been doing these walks for the past 44 years, but COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement made him shift his motivations to be focused on equity.
“I started to really realize that I don't think I'm doing enough for African Americans,” Godby said. “I'm not doing enough as a Caucasian.”
He added that this realization inspired him to get involved in the health equity issue.
“Every person in this country deserves to have an equal opportunity to be healthy, and we need to remove the obstacles to heal,” he said.
Pushing himself physically is Godby's way of making a difference and creating a newsworthy story that will raise awareness for health equity, he said.
Naturopathic doctor Susan R. DeLaney also said healthcare is a big problem in our country. She emphasized that she thinks many Americans believe the United States has a great healthcare system. However, she noted the country's yearly excess spending and lower world rank regarding health.
DeLaney said she is part of the North Carolina Association of Naturopathic Physicians, which is an organization that offers an accessible alternative to “Big Pharma.”
NCANP is a non-profit organization formed in 1987 that works to expand access to naturopathic medicine in North Carolina. It serves as a referral resource for patients looking for naturopathic doctors who are licensed or registered in one of the 23 U.S. states, districts or territories that have laws allowing and overseeing the practice.
The group's website says naturopathic doctors who work with NCANP specialize in the prevention and treatment of diseases through optimal diet, lifestyle habits and the use of natural and non-toxic therapies.
DeLaney said the organization worked with Godby to ensure that a naturopathic doctor would greet him at each of his stops.
She added that she thinks naturopathic medicine should be licensed in North Carolina, an initiative she’s been working on for 23 years. DeLaney said she thinks more naturopathic doctors would come to N.C. if naturopathic medicine was licensed in the state.
Maria Hitt, director of health initiatives at the Orange County Partnership for Young Children, said she hopes people will pay attention to Godby.
“I believe strongly that many health disparities do exist in our country and that because of that, people are not as healthy as they could be,” Hitt said. “We see a definite discrepancy between people with more money and people with more influence.”
Hitt said she comes from a public health background and worked in Orange and Chatham County health departments for about 15 years before joining the early childhood field. She said her experiences inspired her to advocate for health equity.
“Everyone should have access to it no matter who they are, or where they live, or how much money they make or what color their skin is," she said.
Godby said that he also hopes more people, particularly students, will feel inspired to pursue naturopathic medicine.
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