Toledo Deputy Fire Chief Brian Byrd is chairman of the Wellness Walk.
Toledo area African-American men are invited to ditch their suspicions about doctors and sign up for the city’s second annual African-American Male Wellness Walk on Saturday.
Women and children are also invited to participate in the walk and free health screenings at the African-American Legacy Project, 1326 Collingwood Blvd. This year’s theme is “Save a Life.”
The matter is so vital that Ohio Gov. John Kasich has declared August as African-American Male Wellness Walk Month.
Saturday will be Toledo’s second awareness-raising initiative to focus on the health of black men. Toledo deputy fire Chief Brian Byrd, chairman of the wellness walk, expects at least 300 participants, twice as many as last year.
“We’re a sedentary society now and no one is up and moving,” Chief Byrd said. “So the purpose of the walk is to get people moving and to get information so they can address issues that they may not realize they have.”
Discovering disease and conditions not yet manifest is part of the reason for the walk. Underscoring the value of the event, the chief says: “Last year, we had someone transported to the hospital after we found out that she was in the beginning stages of a heart attack.”
On the initiative’s Web site, aawalk.org/toledo, observers are urged to exercise, know their blood pressure and cholesterol readings, and to “increase the number of men to visit the doctor annually.”
African-American men have a historical reluctance to visit the doctor, even when it’s obvious they should. Some of their suspicion about the medical profession can be traced to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment that began in 1932. For 40 years, black men were led to believe they were getting free health care, when the federal government was studying the progression of untreated syphilis in the men. The experiment finally ended in 1972 and resulted in new federal laws protecting the rights of research subjects.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, the five leading causes of death in black men were heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, and homicide. Those are followed by diabetes, chronic lower respiratory diseases, kidney disease, HIV disease, and septicemia, which is a life-threatening infection.
“The average life span for other people is going up but for black males it’s going down,” the chief said, noting that violence contributes to that falling longevity statistic.
“Fighting fires is only about 20 percent of what we do and 80 percent is emergency work,” the chief said, noting that African-Americans are “10 times more likely to get diabetes and to get high blood pressure.”
“As firefighters, we see this firsthand because we see it in the inner-city,” he said. “This is a way for us to get into the community and do something preventative about what we see every day. Though it’s titled African-American Male Wellness Walk, it's for everybody, men and women. A tag I use is ‘healthy men make healthy families.’”
Local health professionals will conduct free health screenings beginning at 8 a.m. with the walk/run starting at 10 a.m. However, unless one has proof of insurance coverage, there is a cost to receive the flu shot from the limited supply that will be available Saturday. Those without insurance will get information on how they can obtain a free flu shot, Chief Byrd said.
Health professionals will check blood pressure, diabetes risk, cholesterol, body mass index, and for HIV. They will also perform free EKGs. Registrants can also be examined for depression and prostate and oral cancer, he said. Pharmacists will be on hand to answer questions about medication.
The African-American Male Wellness Walk is being hosted by the Glass City Black Brothers United, and will also feature vendors and entertainment, including line dancing and bounce houses for children.
Contact Rose Russell at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6178.