Dr. Margaret Savoca
Associate Professor of Nutrition
Whatever it takes : Geoffrey Canada's quest to change Harlem and America
by Paul Tough
Paul Tough’s book is a profile of Mr. Canada’s life and work as founder of Harlem’s Children Zone. Within this 97 block “zone”, his mission is to eliminate educational disparities experienced by the children who live within its borders. I read this book in the summer of 2009 as I was continuing my journey to understand why young African-American men develop high blood pressure earlier than any other group and to find ways to help them prevent the disease. What has stayed with me is not Canada’s remarkable personal story filled with opportunities and setbacks but the two phase approach to his work. First, he sought to understand why poverty made it difficult for children to learn and second, armed with this awareness, to build a comprehensive program that went well beyond the basics of reading and writing. He seeks to provide discipline, social support, and enrichment to these children and their parents through program that begin before birth. Canada has done this by creating a community of caring for children within the larger community. This gave me the realization that my work in the end will probably not be just about providing guidance about diet or physical activity but rather it will be about building a place where young African-American men can learn to care about themselves and be empowered to live a life that will preserve their health.