By Jamil Oakford/managing editor

Event to shed light on gap in community services

South Campus will serve as the backdrop for a conversation on health disparity within the African-American community with two events this month.

A health symposium will be held April 19 in South’s student center, and the African-American Health Expo will be held April 21 in the fitness center. Each will focus on the need to improve the gap in health care for African-Americans.

“African-Americans are more susceptible to heart disease, high blood pressure,” said Sherry Williams, Tarrant County Public Health’s chronic disease educator. “And while life expectancy is improving within the community, we still have health disparity.”

Health disparity, as defined by the National Institutes of Health, is a way to reference the “differences in access or availability of facilities and services.”

“The theme is ‘Health Disparities: The Silent Enemy’ because it’s just that — an enemy,” Williams said.

While this is the theme for 2018, the overarching theme for both events on South is to focus on overall health.

“Physical, emotional, mental, financial — if those are out of balance, it can be unhealthy,” Williams said.

The health expo, which started in 2000, serves as a way for the community to see what the county has to offer in the medical field, she said.

“We started to serve as a bridge between health services and the people,” Williams said. “We are the meeting place.”

Several free health screenings will be available for attendees. Mammograms and cholesterol screenings are just a couple of the free services people can use during the expo. And if someone can’t stay to participate in a screening, TCC board member Gwendolyn Morrison said, “They can receive a free voucher for a future date.”

On top of health screenings, there will be cooking classes on how to make soul food healthy and a place for children to have fun too, Williams said.

“We have a children’s zone where kids can learn about health and fitness,” she said.

Morrison said this is the third consecutive year the college will host the African-American Health Expo, and she’s happy with the partnership.

“Education is everything in one’s life,” she said. “TCC offers the opportunity to further one’s education, and not just for students. It’s also for the community.”

Morrison, who serves as one of the three co-chairs for both the expo and the symposium, said it’s been great seeing the agencies come together to plan and organize the events.

“The passion and the purpose they’ve been working with has been exciting,” she said. “This work is not paid. This is all volunteer work.”

Williams hopes people learn how to eat well and how to take care of themselves to pass it on to others, she said.

“We caught up [in life expectancy numbers] through prevention, but there was another factor to this,” she said, mentioning white populations have their own high rates of opiate-related deaths and suicide. “But we still have health disparities. And once they see that progress, we’re in danger of losing those gains.”

Williams said when those numbers improve, some agencies may move the prevention funding to other efforts.

“We must continue to address the health gap among the community,” she said.

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