Small turnout at Family Health Fair for black community

Area doctors and representatives from several health organizations went to the Family Health Fair 2005 at Second Baptist Church Saturday morning ready to educate a black audience. The information was available, but few from Evanston’s black community showed up.

Members of the church, 1717 Benson Ave., ran the event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Flyers were posted in city businesses and sent to parents through Evanston/Skokie School District 65, but most event participants turned out to be Second Baptist members.

Government statistics show diseases like HIV and diabetes are most prevalent among minorities, and fair organizers hoped to spread this knowledge at the event.

In 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated HIV/AIDS was among the top three causes of death for black men aged 25 to 54. In 2003, nearly half of all Americans living with the virus were black. Of the 90 infants reported as having HIV/AIDS in 2003, 62 were African-American.

CDC statistics show blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to get diabetes than whites. The diabetes rate for black women in 2003 was nearly double that of white women.

Blacks also have less access to treatment than whites, according to three recent studies. The studies, conducted by professors at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Harvard and Emory universities, show blacks undergo procedures like mammograms and heart bypasses less frequently than whites, although the disparity appears to have shrunk in many areas from 1997 to 2003.

Representatives from the Chicago Women’s AIDS Project distributed contraceptives and administered free tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases during the fair. During the first two hours of the four-hour event, only two people got the tests, and they were both involved with organizing the fair.

Materials donated by the National Kidney Foundation were used for blood sugar testing to check for diabetes.

Organizers dedicated a portion of the fair to the food pyramid. Dietitian Althea Reid from Chicago’s Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center prepared mango slices, yogurt and other healthy foods for children. She talked about the importance of nutritious eating.

People need to discuss issues of diet and obesity more often than they do now, but this is especially true in black circles, Reid said. Her patients know little about the fundamentals of nutrition, she said.

“It is discussed, but it needs to be discussed more,” Reid said. “Some people just don’t even know about simple facts like the basic food pyramid.”

Last year’s fair was held at Family Focus Center, 2010 Dewey Ave., where attendance was even lower, Dickinson said.

“It’s a little disappointing to not have a greater turnout,” coordinator Elreta Dickinson said. “I think the time factor kept people away, but overall I don’t think people really appreciate the importance of this event.”

Reach Vincent Bradshaw at

[email protected]