COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Central Ohio’s biggest wellness initiative is aiming to bridge the health gap for communities of color.
An estimated 30,000 people attended the 16th annual African American Male Wellness Walk Saturday morning. The event included a 5K walk and run, as well as free health screenings, vendors and educational tips.
Studies show African American men die prematurely from preventable diseases at a rate up to ten times higher than any other race. Advocates at Saturday’s walk hoped to change that.
“These things are preventable. And the earlier and the quicker we can get our African American males access to appropriate medical care, the better off they are down the line,” said Dr. B.J. Hicks, the board president for both the Columbus American Heart and American Stroke Associations.
In addition to encouraging the men to regularly visit doctors, Dr. Hicks also emphasized the importance of knowing one’s key health numbers: total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass index.
“It’s one thing to go to the doctor and take medicine, but it’s another thing to be empowered with knowing what those numbers mean and knowing you should be checking them at home,” he explained.
William Stinchcomb and his son Avery both participated in Saturday’s walk. Stinchcomb hoped to instill the values of preventative health in his son.
“I need to make sure that my son knows,” he said. “I have to pass along a message so he knows, generationally, your health matters.”
Avery added, “I like that it’s a really good cause for a huge community.”
Before the walk and run started, U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio 3rd District) issued an official congressional proclamation for NBC4’s own Mike Jackson, who received a valor award Thursday in recognition for raising awareness of preventable diseases.
“His life has been indicative of everything we have been walking for,” the Congresswoman said.
Jackson believes high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar were all relevant risk factors contributing to a stroke he suffered in January.
Volunteers at the Wellness Walk said Jackson’s story and the health screenings at the annual event have become a wake-up call for many.
“It’s a part of staying alive,” said Dr. Hicks. “Staying alive for your friends, for your family, for your community, for your job, for your church, and for future generations.”
Since the African American Male Wellness Initiative started in Columbus in 2004, it has expanded to five other Ohio cities, as well as six cities outside of the state.