By Sean Barron
As part of his workout regimen, Jerome Harrell walks about three miles, performs abdominal exercises and lifts light weights at the YMCA in downtown Youngstown.
Exercising a bit of vigilance also has paid off for the Liberty Township man.
“I feel good that at age 58, my signs on everything are good,” Harrell said after having his blood pressure, glucose level and cholesterol checked during Saturday’s first Youngstown/Warren African American Male Wellness 5-Mile Run and Walk. “I got the whole nine yards.”
The gathering at Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, 505 Parkcliffe Ave. on the South Side, kicked off with free screenings for cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure, weight, glucose and body-mass index.
Also included were tests for HIV and prostate cancer.
Afterward, more than 600 men, women and children rode bicycles, walked and ran up to five miles to promote good-health practices and the importance of early detection and prevention, especially in black males, noted the Rev. Dr. Lewis W. Macklin II, event chairman and Holy Trinity’s pastor.
Many health statistics show that diabetes, prostate cancer and other leading diseases kill a greater percentage of black men than their white counterparts.
In addition, 43 percent of black men and nearly 46 percent of black women develop hypertension, compared with 34 percent and 31 percent of white men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are the four leading causes of death for blacks, who make up roughly 13.5 percent of the U.S. population, according to the CDC.
As people age, they need to change their eating habits and place a greater emphasis on exercising, said Harrell, whose mother, Iva Harrell, 77, and father, Warren Harrell, 81, also got tested.
“He’s always trying to stay in shape,” the younger Harrell said about his father.
Also trying to achieve the same goal was 45-year-old Sheila Taylor of Niles, an intake worker for Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Partnership.
“So far, everything is good,” Taylor said after being weighed and learning her blood sugar and blood pressure were normal. “I usually keep up with my numbers.”
More people should take advantage of free health screenings regardless of age, Taylor explained, adding that she heard about Saturday’s wellness walk from co-workers, as well as her 14-year-old daughter, Myra, a member of the Harambee Dancers, who performed during the gathering.
“You need to know, ‘Are you as healthy as you think you are?’” said Lynn Hines, president of the Youngstown-Warren Black Nurses Association, several members of whom provided the testing.
Also assisting with the screenings were students from ETI Technical College in Niles, along with personnel from Northeast Ohio Medical University, Humility of Mary Health Partners and Youngstown State University’s Respiratory Care program.
Many participants picked up information on sickle-cell anemia, prostate screenings for men age 40 and older, hepatitis testing and HMHP’s prescription-drug assistance program, and took advantage of offerings of healthful foods.
Also on hand were brochures about the Academy for Urban Scholars, a new Youngstown-based school that helps students age 14 to 21 receive their diplomas, noted Ronanda Palmer, admissions/records officer.
The program, which got underway in Columbus, crafts education plans specific to each student’s needs, said Palmer and Ron Miller, director.
The wellness walk and run debuted several years ago in Columbus before spreading to Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown, noted John Gregory, chief executive officer for the Columbus-based National Center for Urban Solutions.
Gregory, who’s also a founder of the local walk, noted that black men die at disproportionately higher rates from America’s leading diseases than any other group.
Any such walk and run also must focus on addressing mental-health problems, which often are connected to and exacerbate physical illnesses, said Dr. Mark White of Columbus, who hosts a one-hour health-talk program Saturday mornings on WVKO-AM 1580, a Columbus radio station.
Deeper grass-roots efforts to talk to black men about such challenges are needed, he added.
“This is not just an event, but an experience. We hope to take the experience to the community-at-large and save lives,” the Rev. Mr. Macklin said of Saturday’s wellness walk.
“We have to eat better, exercise and know our numbers. You have to do it right and make proactive changes that stimulate life.”
The gathering also had activities and games for children.