This profile was prepared when Morgan Dixon was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
GirlTrek was founded on the idea that improving health outcomes for Black women starts with a powerful new narrative about what it means to be Black and healthy. For too long, the African American community – and African American women in particular – have been left behind by the health and wellness movement, and as a result, score worse across most health indicators than any other subgroup in the U.S. GirlTrek was founded as a community-based model to reach this population and give Black women a realistic, culturally relevant path toward better health. The goal is to improve the health outcomes of Black women by increasing activity rates and creating a peer culture of healthy decision-making. GirlTrek empowers women to organize their peers into highly-visible walking groups who then connect to other groups through an active social media presence. This model enables women to connect a national movement into their own neighborhoods. Believing that overcoming a sedentary lifestyle and walking in community is a revolutionary act, GirlTrek seeks inspiration from stories of Black women throughout history who have been at the forefront of social change. Already, thousands of women have joined the movement to heal their bodies, inspire their daughters, and reclaim the streets of their neighborhoods. GirlTrek believes that Black women’s stories, skills, and collective efforts will transform the beliefs, traditions and aspirations of their families and inspire healthier communities across the country. To this end, GirlTrek supports volunteers in becoming storytellers and “culture-creators” who organize and inspire Black women in their communities to live healthier lives. At the core of the GirlTrek movement are three fundamental principles that have been absent from existing wellness programs and initiatives: A feasible first step, relevant cultural context, and the power of community. Community walking is GirlTrek's feasible first step because it is an affordable and accessible form of fitness that meets women where they are both financially and physically. Then, GirlTrek examines cultural tensions and root causes of obesity, including from a social justice perspective. They rely on the narratives of Black women’s history to help motivate women and connect them with their foremothers - making sure that cultural relevance is at the center of their narrative. Last, Morgan knows that women need each other in order to sustain substantive health changes. Women are empowered to build community and their own leadership capacity, all while working together for a common cause. GirlTrek’s efforts to improve the health of Black women and to change the culture of obesity within Black communities will result in improved overall health, decreased rates of obesity, chronic stress, diabetes & other preventable diseases, as well as healthy habit formation and improved familial health. Spilling over from this empowering cultural shift, GirlTrek further reimagines the role of Black women in civic life. As women take control of their own health as well as the health of their families and communities, their sense of self will shift, leading to an increased investment in the world around them.