By Okon Ekpenyong
Studies have shown that there are health disparities among African American males and their families, leading to a higher risk for heart diseases, strokes, cancer, asthma, influenza, pneumonia, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. That’s why the 19th annual African American Wellness walk in downtown Columbus, Ohio was not only memorable but also changing the tide was the goal of over 30,000 participants on Saturday, August 13, 2022. The walk aimed to close the gap between black males and their families by addressing their need to live longer from preventable diseases.
“Being able to witness hundreds and thousands of participants today demonstrates how it takes a village to raise a child and that prevention is better than cure when you make wellness a lifestyle choice,” said one runner.
Since the African American Male Wellness Agency began in Columbus in 2000, thirteen other cities have joined forces with the agency in organizing weekly but sometimes daily events to provide community members with information about health treatment and prevention.
They also have job fairs and work with community partners to help individuals with financial difficulties get back on their feet. Days leading to the walk, the agency also hosted other events that were part of the week-long celebration.
Past and current city, county, and state officials helped kick things off, including Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, founder of African American Wellness Agency John H. Gregory, Fmr Mayor Michael Coleman, Mayor Andrew Ginther, Columbus City Councilmembers, Franklin County Commissioners, and much more.
“All city, county, and state officials, including myself, are standing and walking with you today,” Franklin County Commissioner Erica Crawley said.
Aside from raising awareness about health inequities, the event also helped engage the community to address social injustices. That’s why there were over 100 organizations present, providing information to the participants in various areas to help increase awareness. “Let’s continue to end the stigma around health. We must watch out for monkeypox and the stigma that comes with that because education is power, and let’s stay healthy,” said Council President Shannon Hardin.
Saturday’s 5k run and the walk had over 150 volunteers handing out flyers, cheering on the participants, handing out water, and helping with health screening. Before and after the walk or run, participants had the opportunity to receive free health screenings, including checking for blood pressure, glucose levels, cholesterol, HIV/AIDS/STI/STD testing, and Prostate Cancer.
Race day registration, number pick up, and all health screenings started at 7 am. Runners lined up around 9:15 am, and the walk and run officially kicked off around 9:30 am at the corner of Livingston Avenue and Parson Avenue. Participants ran and walked from Parsons Avenue to Broad Street, then to Ohio Street, and ended on Livingston Avenue. Everybody cheered, and off they went.
“Mr. Gregory echoes everything my colleague commissioner Kevin Boyce said about closing the gap in black male health. I am excited to be here with all of you today because we are committed to making a change and increasing the life expectancy for our black males,” Franklin County Commissioner Erica Crawley said.
“If you don’t get screened, you know you’ll have trouble for yourself down the road. So do it for your loved ones, for your grandchildren, and do it for your kids,” Franklyn County Commissioner John O’Grady said.
At the height of the Pandemic, the agency was out in full force, providing PPE and educating the community about Covid and ways of prevention. So, no matter if it rains or snow, the African American Wellness Agency and the walk will not stop on their mission to continue teaching everyone that wellness should be a part of everybody’s lifestyle.
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