COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The African American Male Wellness Agency’s annual walk is right around the corner, and agency leaders on Thursday continued conversations about men’s health.

Studies show Black men and women are disproportionately affected by negative health outcomes, and now the agency is calling on community leaders to help close the gap to health equity.

“In order to have a gap, you need a bridge,” said Dr. Walter Scott Metcalfe, a family physician and the host of Bravo’s “Married to Medicine.”

It’s closing that gap that has been the mission of the AAMWA for nearly two decades.

“Black men die, number one, of all the top five diseases, and they’re preventable,” the agency’s founder John Gregory said.

On Thursday, the AAMWA hosted their annual VIP breakfast — welcoming central Ohio leaders, like Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith and Columbus Public Safety Director Robert Clark.

For Gregory, it’s a chance to help them better understand the agency’s driving mission.

“One of the things that COVID really exposed was the inequity of health disparities in the Black community,” Gregory admits.

The agency’s premiere event returns this summer, which keynote speaker Metcalfe learned three years ago is much more than a walk.

“It was an educational forum I was undergoing. They were educating walkers, they were encouraging black men to come get tested for illnesses,” Metcalfe said. “We screen for blood pressure; we screen for HIV testing. So, bringing awareness to the community.”

The organization has also extended its outreach to women, providing free breast exams, mammograms, as well as vaccines.

Gregory said people of color have long experienced trust issues within the healthcare system, with their needs often feeling neglected.

“When we talk about technology and talk about the use of telehealth, we don’t even talk about the fact that a lot of our communities don’t have internet,” Gregory said.

Building bridges to one another, Gregory said we can begin to close that gap.

“The least amount of the people that look like us there are, the least amount we’re probably going to not trust the system,” Gregory said. “But what we’re trying to do is give African American men the opportunity to build that trust.”

The AAMWA’s annual walk, sponsored by NBC4, will take place on Aug. 13.