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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2005

Local effort puts focus on minority health issues

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Better awareness of health matters and improving communications about treatment options in minority communities are some of the main goals of many area health professionals during Minority Health Month.

About 150 people gathered for a luncheon yesterday at the Frederick Douglass Community Association's J.B. Simmons Building, 1001 Indiana Ave., to kick off a monthlong series of events. Minority Health Month is designed to focus on health disparities between minorities and whites and to better serve the needs of those groups, said Therin Short, a luncheon organizer.

Toledo joined Dayton and Cincinnati yesterday in holding such a kickoff program. Other cities, including Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown, and Fremont, held kickoff events Friday.

The Ohio Commission on Minority Health, in creating Minority Health Month in April, 1989, wanted a high-visibility health promotion and disease prevention campaign.

Minorities, particularly African-Americans and Latinos, have long had more health problems than the general population, including high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and various forms of cancer.

Mary Gregory, a Toledoan who is a member of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, said before the luncheon health- care professionals can only provide information to groups.

She said that though creating programs and events promoting better health are important, it ultimately will be up to the individual to take advantage of the programs and information.

"We want to raise awareness and try to get people to get involved with their health," she said. "I can't make you well."

Laurel Davenport, an Asian-American who is executive director of the South branch of the YMCA, said some minority groups may have to think differently about choices involving food and exercise.

"The month can help highlight nutrition and diets that for some ethnic groups and cultures may not be at the forefront," Ms. Davenport said. "We want to promote ideas on how to get fit and stay fit and develop healthier lifestyles."

Patricia Perez, a health programs manager at Adelante Inc., a Latino social service agency, said activities this month are designed to be a first step toward healthier living.

Ms. Perez said Adelante is sponsoring four programs - from weekly walks open to any interested individuals to a "baby shower" to attract child-bearing Latino women. The events will provide appropriate health-care information to the targeted groups.

State Sen. Ray Miller (D., Columbus), chairman of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, said in a phone interview from Columbus that Minority Health Month helps create a critical mass of health information that's difficult to ignore.

"I think it's amazing that I can make a speech about diabetes and minorities in 1994 and come back 10 years later and the situation is worse than it was before," Mr. Miller said. "We have an opportunity here to address some preventive measures where someday these disparities will start to come down."

Mr. Short said the current crisis of rising health-care costs has proved as formidable for many minorities and often limits their access to needed treatments, nutritional needs, and physical activities.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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