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Forum brings health advice to community

The event focuses on education and prevention for African-Americans.

By NICOLE HUTCHESON, Times Staff Writer
Published November 4, 2007


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ST. PETERSBURG- A decade ago, Dr. Kenneth Bryant was searching for ways to get more African-Americans to come to the doctor's office.

Instead, he and a cadre of other medical professionals decided they would take the doctor to the community instead.

In its 10th year the African American Health Forum has expanded beyond the physical ailments people face.

This year's forum is titled "Mind, Body and Spirit."

"African-Americans are disproportionately affected in pretty much any disease you can think of," said Bryant, a urologist at Suncoast Medical Clinic.

"We have twice the death rate of white Americans in prostate cancer. Hypertension is more prevalent. We have more strokes and have five times the amputation rate with diabetes compared to the white community."

Education and prevention are the problems, Bryant said.

"We're not going in to be screened, and when they go in for care, the disease is more advanced," he said.

Mental health is no different.

"We've been conditioned to believe that if someone is mentally ill, that's an embarrassment to the family and a shameful sickness," Bryant said. "But we now know it's a true disease that can be treated."

This year's forum will include six breakout sessions featuring speakers on a variety of topics, including cancer, hypertension, obesity and mental health. The public will be able to ask questions and receive free screenings for various illnesses.

Among the speakers is Dr. Emile Commedore, the Florida Department of Health's director of the office of minority health. Commedore, who practices obstetrics and gynecology, is an expert on infant mortality and prenatal issues.

Darryl Rouson, a partner with the Rouson & Dudley law firm, and Gypsy Gallardo, editor of Power Broker Magazine, will be among those on hand to discuss topics related to social and economic empowerment.

Gerald Syrkett, who organizes the city's only community-based mental health forum for blacks, will be on hand as well to moderate the session on mental health.

"We believe there's a disparity with respect to African-Americans being diagnosed with mental health issues and certainly receiving treatment," said Syrkett, who helps clients of Operation PAR (Parental Awareness and Responsibility) on public assistance receive substance abuse and mental health treatment. "So this is a way to get the conversation going."

The kickoff to Saturday's forum is a breast cancer walk, organized by the St. Petersburg chapter of Links Inc. Lunch will be served and the Royal Theater Mime Group and the Dundu Dole Dance Troupe/Life Force Cultural Arts will be featured live at the forum.

IF YOU GO

African American Health Forum

When: Saturday. Breast cancer awareness walk begins at 6:30 a.m. Community forum, health screenings and activities 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free.

Where: Johnnie Ruth Clarke Center, 1244 22nd St. S; St. Petersburg.

Information: (727) 821-6701.

[Last modified November 3, 2007, 22:03:50]


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