Saving Our Communities
Mayors' Health Forum
By Jamal Barbari
Seat Pleasant Mayor Eugene Grant and District Heights Mayor James Walls encouraged students who attended a health forum April 29 to begin to live healthy lifestyles in order to improve the overall well-being of African Americans.
In the forum hosted by Leslie Hall, student regent of the University System Maryland Board of Regents, Grant gave the audience an abundance of statistical data that was directly related to the African-American community, some of which included statistics on African Americans who have diabetes, high blood pressure and HIV-AIDS. African Americans make up the largest single ethnic group afflicted with these ailments and the number of HIV-AIDS cases in the Prince George's County and District of Columbia are worse than in many Third World nations.
"We as African Americans are not involved in our communities, therefore leaving us blind to these matters," Walls said. He added that the lack of participation, information and initiative has left many African Americans without the tools they need to properly address their health issues.
While HIV-AIDS gets the lion's share of funding and media attention, many African-American men are suffering from cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer, which happens to be a leading cause of death in African-American men at 71.7 percent, according to the panelists.
The mayors pointed to the wide disparity between the number of African Americans with health issue and those with adequate health insurance. Why are African Americans so blinded to these statistics? Why is nothing being done about it? When a student asked this question, Grant responded by saying, "We don't respect ourselves, our power, so why would anyone else respect us or our wishes?"
The lack of participation concerning health matters within the black community has been an increasing issue and one that is taking its toll on the overall African-American society. Both mayors agreed that black people, especially African-American students, need to take the initiative. The student bodies in some universities (mainly HBCUs) are weak and inactive, thus leaving them with no support and that's why nothing is done, the panelists said.
At the end of the panel, several people in the audience said that the mayors' forum was extremely informative and left them with a new outlook on the African-American community's health status. But the question remains: What is the student body going to do about it?