Health Expo 93 takes information, tests and screenings to black community Six hospitals sponsor educational fair

August 08, 1993|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Staff Writer

Like a street-corner preacher asking for understanding and benevolence, Shelia Maple stood on a platform inside Mondawmin Mall yesterday pleading for black bone marrow donors.

She said they were needed for the thousands of black leukemia patients, like herself, who discover they have the cancer each year.

"All we need is some commitment so we can stop dying," the 28-year-old Northeast Baltimore woman shouted to the hundreds people who attended Health Expo 93.

The health fair brought six hospitals and dozens of other medical organizations together to provide education, screening and preventive

information to the black community.

Organizers said the health education and interaction with the community were overdue.

"There's this notion that black people aren't interested in health, and that's not true," said Joy Bramble, publisher of the Baltimore Times, one of the sponsors.

"We're in a city with some of the best hospitals in the world, and black people are dying from some diseases that can be prevented," Ms. Bramble said. "We want to bring the resources to where the people are."

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. yesterday, about 2,000 people walked to the various health care stations for free exams that checked for eyesight problems, high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, breast

cancer, stroke vulnerability, diabetes and several other conditions that are common among blacks.

The University of Maryland Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Maryland General Hospital, Liberty Medical Center, Harbor Hospital and Bon Secours Hospital participated in the health fair.

Dr. Michael Sloan, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said the fair's chief accomplishment was increasing awareness.

"We don't expect to change the world with one of these events," Dr. Sloan said. "We're just trying to get the word out."

While many blacks lack adequate care because of the rising costs of health insurance, the fair may lead to some better health habits, Dr. Sloan said.

Albert Clark, of Pimlico, said he will be sure to follow whatever the health professionals say. His high blood pressure had just been measured when he lifted himself from his seat and gripped his stomach.

"I'm going to watch what I eat," he said after the nursing assistant told him to cut down on his salt intake. "I've been splurging a little bit, but I want to stay healthy."

Samuel Epps, a nursing assistant for the University of Maryland

Health Center, had tested more than

60 people's blood pressure by 4 p.m. Most of them, he said, had high blood pressure -- "the silent killer."

Ms. Maple, now a volunteer with the American Red Cross and at the Johns Hopkins blood center, learned last April she had leukemia. She had gone to the hospital for "enormous bone and muscle pain." She said until that time she had never known of the disease that now shadows her life. If she does not receive the surgery, she will die, she said.

"These [health] issues need to be advertised more in the black community," Ms. Maple said. "I used to think leukemia was a white disease."

The fair also attempted to show a lighter side of health care.

The Oriole Bird sauntered through the crowds; Barney the dinosaur sang his "I Love You" song to

children; participants were taught aerobics; and karate master Leroy "Superfeet" Taylor demonstrated how martial arts can aid the health conscious.

"Martial arts can help you with conditioning, controlled breathing, flexibility and stamina," Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor, along with three assistants from his House of Kat Sho Du karate school at 301 W. Madison St., led a youth karate class and other demonstrations with kicks, chops, punches and other techniques.

"The fair was pretty informative," said Lamaire Byfield, 36, of West Baltimore, whose cholesterol level was checked as he was on his way to pay his electric bill. "Once you have good health, you have nothing to worry about."

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