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Office of Health Equity

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Veteran Health Equity Art Gallery

The Office of Health Equity has asked artists who have connections to the military to help visualize the military experience, social justice, and what health equity for all Veterans might look like.  This gallery grew out of Office of Health Equity’s Health Equity Action Plan efforts to increase awareness of the significance of health disparities, their impact on the nation, and the actions necessary to improve health outcomes for racial, ethnic, and underserved populations.

Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Artist Call for Submissions 

The Office of Health Equity is calling on Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander artists who have served, are currently serving, or are a family member of those who have served in the military to submit their work to be displayed at Office of Health Equity’s Virtual Art Gallery.  Artists interested in submitting their work should review the Call for Submissions.

Current Exhibition: Black Veterans Experiences with Weight-Related Care


Nearly half (44%) of Black Veterans who use VHA care have obesity (Breland et al., 2017). The MOVE! Weight Management Program for Veterans (MOVE!) is supported by VA's National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (NCP).  Adapted from the evidence-based Diabetes Prevention Program, MOVE! assists Veterans to achieve clinically meaningful (~5%) weight loss to improve their health and reduce their risk for chronic health conditions, like diabetes. However, Black Veterans lose less weight after participating in MOVE! than White Veterans (Hoerster et al., 2014). VA clinicians listened to and learned from Black Veterans to develop recommendations on how to improve MOVE! experiences and outcomes for Black Veterans. These included:

  • Hire and retain providers who understand and respect Black patients and are committed to delivering evidence-based, culturally-sensitive care.
  • Tailor weight management programs to individual diets, including information about how to make traditional foods healthier and how to incorporate preparation methods from other cultures. Materials should not vilify culturally important foods.
  • De-emphasize Body Mass Index (BMI) as a measure of health and well-being.

NCP has already begun incorporating its recommendations to ensure Veterans enrolled in MOVE! are receiving evidence-based and culturally-sensitive weight-related care. 

Some of the Veterans’ submissions – photos, poetry, and responses – are included in this exhibit. The results of this work are also published open access in the Journal of General Internal Medicine (Breland et al., 2024, epub ahead of print).

Please click on the Veterans' hyperlinked quotes to expand the images.



A Visit to the Provider

Body Image to Me

“A visit to the provider should be a good and thorough work up. We are missing that.”

“Overall body image to me means health, … you can tell when you start stepping on that forklift that you’re not doing right.”

Breakfast Things that Give Me Comfort

“When I first looked at [this picture]…my mother is from Louisiana, that was breakfast…rice with every meal, grits. It took me through [a] whole day [of my childhood] just looking at that one meal.”

“I struggle with things that give me comfort or make me feel better, you know? And this is a prime example of stuff that makes me feel good, and makes me feel better. Fried chicken. Corn on the cob. Hot sauce. Salt, pepper. You know. Man, and this is a picture I took of one of my meals. And, I don’t know, I guess it’s one thing at a time. But food is like, like you said, like kryptonite. It’s been a struggle for me to eat healthy.”

My Dietitian Says What Can I Eat

“It’s easy for me to say that I want to eat healthier and exercise more, but actually implementing that into my lifestyle with my schedule [is hard]... My dietitian says…’try celery sticks’...but then I found it to not be as satisfying…there are some things that really truly have to change within me in order for me to make the changes outward of me.”

“You can’t eat too much beef because it will give you gout. You can’t eat pork because it will give you high blood pressure. You can’t eat fried foods because it’ll give you high cholesterol. So, what can I eat that I don’t have to worry about my health being involved in it? Why can’t I just eat something and enjoy it?”

Words That Were Unhealthy


“I know in MOVE, in one of the chapters they had a list of words that were unhealthy. And it was fried, southern, smothered, alfredo. It’s everything that, I mean to my mind, they’re just telling me everything that I like is bad, so there was just no point in maybe even looking at trying to salvage those foods... Instead of maybe vilifying it, show some alternatives to alfredo, something that’s maybe alfredo-like, but with less calories.”


 Big Black Girl by Jo Anne Hall They said she couldn’t be a woman Not with a shape like that Only the infantile and immature Could let her body get that Rep How dare she be, very disgustingly Walking around the midst of the public An embarrassment, shaming Come on, she got to be lonely Who would consider her lovely? Everyone knows she’s lazy. Let’s paper bag her non swag and give her time to someone else,… no lag The smaller the more golden, the fat not chosen Number 1, The man should take her out only at night, ONLY he needs a real woman. You know: Gym, Business, Friends and close Family Rule Number 2, don’t tell her “I LOVE YOU” Next, don’t give her no respect The 4th thing is, is that she has to beg for the ring Fifth thing is that the fat lady can only sing….AND EAT ..when someone tells her that no one really likes her, they just tolerate her in order not to hurt her feelings, they don’t want to set blaze to her path in their dealings. That sex, food, warmth in the winter is the only doors men will enter. That her helping to pay for trips, whips and hair is the only reason her fake girlfriends act like they care. They get together and cause a stir, hiding from her. They stay clear of her lair. What if the Fat Girl wasn’t there?

Previous Exhibitions

Responding to Social Justice and Equity