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Stephen Thomas, Ph.D.

Stephen Thomas, Ph.D.

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

University Of Pittsburgh's Center For Minority Health To Hold National Minority Health Month Activities

PITTSBURGH, March 28, 2006 — Improving the health status of racial and ethnic minorities, who experience premature illness and death from cancer, diabetes, heart disease and a number of other diseases, is a major concern in today’s public health and medical care environment. The Center for Minority Health  (CMH) of the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) at the University of Pittsburgh is a leader in the national effort to eliminate these disparities. Throughout the month of April, in observation of National Minority Health Month (NMHM), CMH and its Health Disparities Working Groups will hold a series of events to promote healthy behaviors among African Americans, Hispanics and other minority populations.

The events and activities are focused on seven major health priority areas identified by the Department of Health and Human Services: cancer screening and management, infant mortality, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, immunization, and mental health. The goal is to draw attention to risk factors that are preventable causes of premature illness and death among ethnic and racial minority populations, according to Stephen Thomas, Ph.D., Philip Hallen Professor of Community Health and Social Justice at GSPH and director of the CMH.

For National Minority Health Month, CMH will hold a daylong premier event from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 8, at the Kingsley Association, 6435 Frankstown Ave., East Liberty. Activities will include public and mental health and wellness screenings, educational workshops, family health histories, exercise and aerobics, a climbing wall, bouncy-bounce, community health information tables and the world famous Double Dutch Divas from New York City.

Former Pittsburgh Steeler and Common Pleas Court Judge, Dwayne D. Woodruff is the NMHM Honorary Chair. In addition, Steelers veteran offensive lineman Barrett Brooks and rookie linebacker Rian Wallace will be special guests at the premier event. All activities are free and open to the public and door prizes will be offered throughout the day.

“The range of activities that we offer at the premier event and throughout the month will attract people of every age group,” Dr. Thomas said. “Inviting entire families to participate allows us to communicate important health-related messages to a large number of people who need the information not only to change personal lifestyle behaviors but also to improve the health of the entire family.”

Each health priority area has a ‘signature event’ around which key health communication messages are framed.

Four of the signature events will take place during the April 8 premier event:

“Healthy Lungs, Healthy Life” – African Americans have the highest death rate from lung cancer compared to any group in the nation. This year’s focus for the cancer screening priority area is promoting lung health. Participants will receive information on smoking cessation products and programs along with facts about lung cancer risk factors, symptoms and treatment, and the dangers presented by tobacco products and other environmental factors that contribute to lung cancer.

“Caring for the Caregiver” – The mental health priority area will highlight the unique needs of caregivers of people with physical and mental health issues. Caregivers who stop in for tips on relaxation techniques will receive a goodie bag full of gifts that will help them maintain their own wellness. Helpful information on medical and social service systems also will be available to caregivers.

“Get Moving to Prevent and Control Diabetes and Heart Disease” – Scientific evidence clearly demonstrates how obesity is a common risk factor for chronic disease. The diabetes and cardiovascular health priority areas will feature nutrition counseling and cooking demonstrations, health screenings, educational sessions and a variety of physical activities to help people incorporate more activity into their daily lives.

“The Key to Healthy Black Families” – The immunization priority area will have health care volunteers on hand to review immunization records for any missing vaccinations or necessary boosters. Parents who bring their children’s immunization records will be eligible for a special raffle.

This year, for the first time, the Center for Minority Health will host the HIV/AIDS signature event “Real Life, Real Rap,” a film festival featuring four important short movies and documentaries that illustrate the impact that HIV and AIDS have on minorities. Three of the movies are winners of the BET and Black AIDS Institute short film competition. The film festival will be held Saturday, April 15 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theatre, 5941 Penn Ave., in East Liberty.

The final signature event will be the Community Walk for Healthy Babies and Families from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 29 at the Hosanna House, 807 Wallace Ave., Wilkinsburg. The event also will feature a healthy baby fair, information tables and vendors and other activities, door prizes and refreshments.

“Most of the focus areas that we’ve chosen are diseases and conditions which are largely avoidable if preventive measures are taken,” Dr. Thomas said. “People who attend our signature events will receive life-saving information on steps that people can take to prevent the onset of these conditions.”

National Minority Health Month once again features Health Promotion Sunday, which will be held this year on Sunday, April 23, at St. Paul AME Church in Beltzhoover. This event, a CMH partnership with the Urban League of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, will highlight the importance of the faith community in the campaign to promote health and prevent disease. The health fair taking place during this event is open to all Beltzhoover residents. Clergy throughout Allegheny County are encouraged to include a message in their sermons promoting health during the month of April.

The Center for Minority Health National Minority Health Month, has been made possible by financial support from The Pittsburgh Foundation, DSF Charitable Foundation, Highmark Foundation, POISE Foundation, Heinz Endowments, Pennsylvania Department of Health, the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, Giant Eagle, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

CMH was established in 1994 with a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. CMH is committed to taking a lead role in the nation's prevention agenda to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities as described in Healthy People 2010, a Department of Health and Human Services Initiative.

Details about National Minority Health Month can be viewed on the CMH Web site at www.cmh.pitt.edu. The phone number of CMH is 412-624-5665.

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