Health care disparities highlight of conference


Dr. Carolyn Tucker, Ph.D., left, primary organizer of the conference, gives Dr. Tya Arthur, Ph.D., the “Drum Major for Health Promotion and Elimination of Health Disparities Award.” Arthur, who helped organize the conference, is the youngest person to ever receive the award by the University of Florida Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program.

CLEVELAND TINKER/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 2:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 2:51 p.m.

The inaugural “People's Scientific Conference to Promote Health and Eliminate Health Disparities” drew more than 600 registrants, mostly health care educators, providers and students, from around the state, nation and world.

Held Friday and Saturday at the University of Florida Health Professions, Nursing and Pharmacy Complex, conference-goers attended workshops that dealt with educating those attending on how to promote and encourage healthy living in their communities and how to close the health care disparity gap that exists primarily between those who understand the nuances involved with dealing with health care centers and providers and those who don't.

Sponsored by the University of Florida Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program led by Dr. Carolyn Tucker, Ph.D., the conference featured numerous sessions, including one led by Dr. Tya Arthur, a post-doctoral research associate in the UF Department of Psychology.

Other sessions covered such topics as “What Makes It Easier and What Makes It More Difficult for Minorities to Eat Healthy and Engage in Physical Activity,” “Effective Strategies for Managing Hypertension,” “Connecting Culturally to Underserved Populations,” “Risk Factors for Health Disparities in Youth” and more.

The session led by Arthur on Saturday included the showing of “The Bronx Health-Smart Church Testimonial Video,” which featured blacks and Hispanics who attend Baptist and Catholic churches in the Bronx in New York City talking about how they benefited from a healthy living program designed by the UF Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program led by Tucker and funded by PepsiCo.

The program, designed to decrease and prevent obesity in underserved communities, is being used nationally in churches, community and health care centers and YMCAs.

One black woman on the video said she decided to begin living healthier after getting involved with the eight-week program. “I told myself I was going to change what I eat,” the woman said. “Instead of frying food, I started steaming and baking my food.”

The woman also said she realized there are benefits to eating healthy and exercising.

Arthur said the UF Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program currently is implementing a Health-Smart Church Model Program in the 11th Episcopal District of the AME Church, which includes AME churches throughout Florida and the Bahamas. Arthur also said the program is able to train other organizations and churches, adding that training sessions include 16 hours of instruction.

Dr. Yana Banks, a physician at the Alachua County Health Department, led a session on Saturday that dealt with “Access to Health Care: Barriers and Solutions.” During one of her sessions, Banks said the topic was dear to her because, as a child, she and her family didn't have easy access to health care.

She said cost, culture, education, geography, organization and transportation are some of the major barriers to health care today, but she said some ways to eliminate those barriers include implementation of the Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 and churches, families and organizations in the community working together to ensure that people have transportation to medical appointments.

She said she read an article about a little girl in Tennessee with a chronic illness who had trouble getting to her doctor's appointments.

“Her community and churches got together and they made a schedule so that someone was always available to get her to her doctor's appointments and then it spread out to the broader community to help other people who had trouble getting to the doctor,” Banks said.

Tucker, who was all smiles and a little tired at the end of the conference, said future plans include the conference being held biennially, at the least.

“Somebody asked me am I still fired up, and I am still fired up and ready to go,” said Tucker during her closing comments, before being handed roses by Gainesville residents Vivian Filer and Deloris Rentz, both of whom served on the conference organizing committee.

“I truly feel excited and am overwhelmed with joy with regards to the success of this conference,” Tucker said.

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