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Fighting for our lives

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Health professionals are strongly urging African Americans to take the steps needed to protect their families from life threatening medical conditions.

As the economy has worsened, so have health disparities among African-Americans, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“Recent studies have shown that despite the steady improvements in the overall health of the United States, racial and ethnic minorities experience a lower quality of health services and are less likely to receive routine medical procedures and have higher rates of morbidity and mortality than non-minorities,” said Nancy H. Nielsen, president of the American Medical Association (AME).

African-Americans are still much more likely to have diabetes than Caucasians, have higher death rates for heart disease and stroke, continue to be three times more likely to develop lupus.

Also, the prevalence of high blood pressure among African-Americans is among the highest in the world. An estimated 80 percent of Black women and 60 of Black men are overweight or obese, which contributes significantly to certain cancers, diabetes and other serious ailments.

In Indianapolis, organizations and hospitals are doing what they can to help families prevent medical challenges.

One of the most effective strategies being used is free community events, such as the upcoming Pecar Family Health Fair presented by Wishard Health Services and WTHR-Channel 13.

On Saturday, April 25 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. families will be invited to visit Pecar Health Center on Indianapolis’ westside to receive screenings for blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol, glaucoma and sexually transmitted diseases.

Participants will also be able to get advice from a team of health care professionals and visit booths with free information on topics such as nutrition, women’s health, dental care, health insurance and domestic violence. Music, refreshments and fun for kids will be provided.

Dr. Dawn Haut, medical director of Pecar Health Center, noted that free health fairs by organizations and churches are an excellent way to help families secure good health during an economic downturn.

“By offering free health screenings and helpful advice from medical experts, families will have the opportunity to learn about important health living tips,” Haut said.

An increasing number of health professionals are also taking a look at the use of joint replacement surgery as a key to eliminating existing health problems. Some patients improve their health by exercising, but chronic joint pain can prevent that.

“If you suffer from a chronic health condition, there is a key factor that will make a difference in your quality of life-exercise,” said Verona Brewton, director of minority initiatives for Zimmer, an Indiana-based health care provider. “But it is hard to exercise with arthritis or joint pain. African-Americans are still 39 percent less likely to get the treatment they need to improve physical function”

Brewton strongly encourages patients to speak with their primary care physicians about regaining their mobility by considering options ranging from non-surgical relief treatment to joint or knee replacement.

“In order for disparities to be reduced we have to educate families on what must be done to prevent serous medical conditions,” said Nielsen.

For more information about the Wishard Pecar Family Health Fair, call 266-2901. The health center is located at 6940 N. Michigan Rd. For information about Zimmer, visit www.backinthegroove.zimmer.com

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