February 17, 2009
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A community-based effort to prevent life-threatening disease among Bay Area African Americans is underway in Contra Costa County. In partnership with the Bay Area Black United Fund, Contra Costa Health Services is recruiting African Americans to become active health role models.
The first training session will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 18 at Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church in Richmond.
African Americans in Contra Costa have a disproportionately high rate of preventable disease, according to Reducing Health Disparities Resource Coordinator Dawna Vann.
"The cancer and diabetes death rates, for example, are much higher among African Americans than they are in other populations," Vann said. "When an African American chooses to become a Health Conductor, they choose to become a source of positive influence in their family and the community."
All Health Conductors must complete a free four-month training program in which they learn about the main principles: to assume personal responsibility for their health and well-being; to promote cultural messages that embrace healthy lifestyles; to ask for support to make healthy changes in their life; and to work to remove inner obstacles.
The effort, which trains African Americans to become Critical Mass Health Conductors, was launched in 2005 at the African American Health Summit in Oakland. The goal is to engage African Americans in becoming health advocates for themselves, their families and their communities.
As in the spirit of Harriet Tubman, who took herself to freedom first, African Americans who become Critical Mass Health Conductors will learn practical ways to achieve their health goals.
The Critical Mass Health Conductor program consists of four three-hour meetings. At each Gathering, the conductors-in-training work in groups of three to meet a specific health goal, such as more exercise, better nutrition, less stress or better sleep.
"The Critical Mass Health Conductor program demonstrates for the African American community what healthy practices look like. It´s a call to action at the community level. Health Conductors promote personal freedom by making healthy lifestyle choices," said Vann, Health Conductor #513. The number identifies Vann as one of roughly 700 Health Conductors in the Bay Area. Part of the movement´s goal is to recruit 1 percent of the Bay Area´s African American population — or approximately 4,650 people.
The Contra Costa Health Services effort is a part of the Reducing Health Disparities and African American Health Initiative´s goal to create partnerships with the public. The first meeting will take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 18 at Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church, 2621 Shane Drive, Richmond, CA 94806. Vann encourages all African Americans age 16 to 106 to attend, regardless of where they live.
Reducing Health Disparities aims to decrease health inequities in Contra Costa County. To become a Critical Mass Health Conductor, contact Dawna Vann at 925-957-5436.
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