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Spring into Health Event seeks to close gap in minority health disparities

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Jenea E Wood
Florida Department of Health in Escambia County
The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County promoted the 5-2-1-0 campaign to reduce childhood obesity at this recent event. The health unit is observing National Minority Health Month with its first "Spring into Health Event" event on Saturday.

The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County is observing National Minority Health Month with its inaugural “Spring into Health Event” tomorrow (Saturday) at the Wedgewood Community Center.

“Minority Health Month is observed in April of each year,” said Dr. Vanessa Phillips, Director for Communications, Health Education, Nutrition, & Public Health Preparedness for FDOH-Escambia.

“And, it’s a time for us to look at all the health disparities that are plaguing our communities and figure out what we can do to impact those positively.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black Americans are more likely to have chronic diseases. Data collected between 2015-2018 shows 57% of Blacks had high blood pressure compared to almost 44% (43.7) for whites. Looking at obesity, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, Just over 76 (76.2) of Blacks were listed as obese, surpassing the white population (70.5) by almost six percentage points.

“We want to make sure we’re providing residents with health education to understand the importance of preventive health screenings, wellness, and doctors’ visits, and things to detect high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, heart disease, eye disease, cancers,” Phillips said.

This year’s National Minority Health Month theme is “Give Your Community a Boost,” which focuses on the continued importance of protecting high-risk minority communities from COVID-19.

“I know we heard a lot about co-morbidities at the beginning of COVID-19 and those are some of the things that can help impact whether or not we are adversely affected by COVID-19.”

FDOH-Escambia continues to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccinations at its Pensacola location on West Fairfield Drive. Also, public health officials advocate continuation of other preventative measures such as washing hands, practicing social distancing and wearing masks.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health has been recognizing April as National Minority Health Month since the early 2000s. Phillips says Florida has always participated, but this year the observance is focused on promoting the importance of health equity through a series of public “Spring into Health” events.

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health

“What we’re doing over here in Escambia is making sure we are going into our communities, we want to be accessible for those communities who need us most.”

For their inaugural “Spring into Health” event, FDOH-Escambia is taking the show on the road to one of the local communities where racial and ethnic health disparities are greatest.

“We’ll be out at the Wedgewood Community Center — the Marie K. Young Wedgewood Community Center - this Saturday. The event is from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.,” Phillips began.

“We will be in partnership with some of our community groups who will be coming out and providing healthy eating options, teaching kids healthier ways to exercise, and fun things, that we can make sure that everybody understands that health doesn’t have to be boring.”

The event will feature free health screenings, chronic disease education, and cooking demonstrations to include the grilling of different vegetables to show that are both healthy and tasty.

Phillips adds they plan to take advantage of all that the community center has to offer for activities inside and outside, for adults and kids.

“So, you may see foot races and the like; getting people moving. There’s a track there and we’ll be utilizing that to the best of our ability. There’s a park there and we’ll be utilizing that.”

The center is located in the heart of the African-American community of Wedgewood at 6405 Wagner Road in Pensacola.

Phillips is hoping for a good turnout at the health department’s first “Spring into Health” event on Saturday. And, she’s confident it will be the first of many.

“Every April, we’re gonna do something and we’re gonna make sure that we’re highlighting those disparities that exist and helping to close those gaps.”