Sandra Campbell calls the St. Joseph’s/Candler African-American Health Information & Resource Center her second home.
For at least 17 years, the 70-year-old Savannah native has gone there, first for free computer classes and typing, then to learn how to stay healthy and remain free from the diabetes that runs in her family.
But, she told a gathering under a tent at the 1910 Abercorn St. site on Thursday, her favorite health activity is Healthy Bingo where she finds companionship, “but the biggest takeaway is that there are no ‘losers’ because everyone wins when it comes to health.”
Her testimonial drew smiles during the 20th anniversary celebration of the center where more than 200,000 visits have come since it opened in 1999.
“It really doesn’t seem possible that now we’re talking about decades, a generation of people who have walked through this building,” St. Joseph’s/Candler President and CEO Paul P. Hinchey told the gathering.
He hailed the center’s “end goal” as improving health outcomes where people were falling through the cracks.
The concept for the center grew from discussions by leaders of the health system and Savannah State University to address the disparity of access to health care and the lack of cultural health information, largely in low-income homes.
It is strategically located in an area of Savannah where more than 50% of households live below the poverty level.
“The core intent of the (center) is to design programs using information technology and educational resources that lead to positive health outcomes for African Americans,” Hinchey said.
Since its opening, the center had provided free health screenings and seminars to ensure that people are aware of how healthy they are and ways to improve their health and better manage diseases.
And he said the center is one of several community efforts by the health care provider to address community needs, including St. Mary’s Community Center in Cuyler-Brownvilleand the medical home at Drayton and Henry streets.
“We care about you,” he said. “We care about this community. We care about access for all.”
He said the health care system’s board has put $6 million to the center alone over the past 20 years.
Twenty years ago the health care system stepped into the health vacuum that African Americans faced — a disparity in access to health care and a lack of cultural health information. Since then the center provided free health screenings and seminars to ensure that people are aware of how healthy they are and ways to improve their health and better manage diseases.
Over time, this strategy has and will continue to positively impact the overall community wellness by improving the health profiles of Savannah’s minorities and poor, and thus reducing the gaps in health status and health outcomes between affected residents.
The center’s focus has changed as the needs of the community changed. In the future it will continue to evolve to meet the community’s needs.
Ella Williamson, center director since its opening, told the group her work was not for fortune or fame, nor was is it for the faint-hearted.
“St. Joseph’s/Candler took on this initiative to improve health care by filling the health information void in low-income communities,” she said. “We continue to believe that improving knowledge is the key ingredient to maintaining high quality health.”
Now, she said, on Jan. 15 the center plans to unveil HERO (Health Effective Resource Organizations) to expedite a data-driven approach to improving health and promoting equity.
“The program will connect low-income families to more than 700 health and social service organizations in Chatham County,” she said. “It will provide a database to help learn more about some of the underlying factors that influence health disparities at population and ZIP code levels to promote intervention and expand access to health and social services.
“Health care is a personal right and responsibility,” Williamson said. “It is one that must not be forfeited due to lack of knowledge, access to health care or other disproportionate gaps in our societal system.”
What the African-American Health Information & Resource Center offers:
• Free health screenings such as blood pressure and blood sugar
• Referrals to physicians
• Free health seminars that cover heart disease risks, stroke risks, nutrition, healthy eating, combating diabetes, obesity and dealing with stress
• Free computer access and classes
• Access to expert help on employment searches and business development
• Ladies Living Smart Fitness Program that includes a comprehensive health screening
• Reading and math tutorials
• Health literacy classes
• Youth Health Programs (Summer camps, special events and book giveaways)
Source: St. Joseph’s/Candler
By the numbers
Covering 20 years of service at the AAHIRC:
• Total visits: 186,225
• Computer class attendees: 21,497
• Seminar attendees: 12,088
• Health Screening Participants: 16,786
• Internet Surfing Center Visitors: 89,779
• Ladies Living Smart Fitness Program attendees: 6,000
• Youth health programs attendees: 7,090
• Visitors for health fairs and community presentations: 23,818
• Visitors taking computer classes: 11,522
• Visitors getting health screenings: 9,036
• Attendees for health fairs and expos: 53,810
Source: St. Joseph’s/Candler
Why is this important?
• African-American adults are twice as likely as non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes.
• In 2010, African-American men were 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease, as compared to non-Hispanic white men.
• African-American women are 1.6 times as likely as non-Hispanic white women to have high blood pressure.
• In 2015, African Americans were 1.4 times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be obese.
• African-American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. About four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese.
• In 2012, African-American men were 1.3 times and 1.7 times, respectively, more likely to have new cases of lung and prostate cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic white men.
• African-American men are 2.3 times as likely to die from prostate cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic white men.
• In 2012, African-American women just as likely to have been diagnosed with breast cancer, however, they were almost 40% more likely to die from breast cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic white women.
• African-American men are twice as likely as their white counterparts to have a stroke.
• African-American males are 60% more likely to die from a stroke than their white adult counterparts.
• In 2005, African Americans had 2.3 times the infant mortality rate of non-Hispanic whites.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Two people were instrumental in getting AAHIRC started and two park benches were dedicated to them as a token of appreciation.
The inscriptions on those benches read:
• Dedicated in loving memory to Sister Virginia Gillis, RSM (October 24, 1933 – March 9, 2012) whose inspirational wisdom and innovative vision as Vice President of Mission Integration at St. Joseph’s/Candler led to the conceptualization, development and ultimate establishment of the African-American Health Information & Resource Center. She possessed a selfless passion for helping those in need, and became a recipient of the love she inspired in others.
• Dedicated in fond memory of Dr. Clifford Hardwick (September 4, 1927 ~ November 18, 2018) whose unquenchable thirst for knowledge led to his lifelong career as an educator. He inspired generations of students towards the pursuit of betterment through the power of education. As an ambassador and steward of the African-American Health Information & Resource Center, Dr. Hardwick displayed an outstanding commitment and unparalleled service as the first co-chairman of the program.
Source: St. Joseph’s/Candler
Contact: AAHIRC, 1910 Abercorn St., 912-447-6605
Credit: Source link