Families gathered on the Southeast Side for free health services and back-to-school preparation with IlliniCare Health and local officials Congresswoman Robin Kelly and Alderman Greg Mitchell.
IlliniCare Health hosted its Community Back to School and Health Fair held in conjunction with Congresswoman Robin Kelly, representing Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District, and Alderman Greg Mitchell of the 7th Ward at Compassion Baptist Church on Saturday, Aug. 27.
“For us at IlliniCare Heath, this event furthers our mission is to transform the health of the community, one person at a time,” IlliniCare Health CEO Michael Marrah said. “In a fair like this, when we’re offering everything from hair cuts to dental exams, we’re bringing the whole community together to improve the area’s health and we’re not doing it alone.”
This event focused on overall well-being and provided free health screenings such as dental, vision, blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol testing. Teaching attendees about preventative health measures with fitness demos and educational presentations was a top concern.
“There’s always a need for basic preventative health care,” Marrah said. “Making sure you’re going to the doctor, the dentist, making sure you’re eating well. We partnered with vendors to let people know about getting fresh food even if they live in a food desert. Understanding options for mental and behavioral health resources is also important. There’s a lot of places they can go and a lot of people they can partner with to make themselves and their families healthy.”
The statistics for diseases that disproportionately affect Black communities do support the need for education about preventative care. The rate at which Black men are diagnosed with diabetes increased 136 percent from 1980 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers for hypertension are equally troubling. Not only do Blacks develop high blood pressure earlier than other races, there are more Black women with it than men.
Experts attribute much of this growth to a lack of adequate care. Approximately 13.5 percent of Blacks are in fair or poor health compared to the total population that has less than 10 percent of Americans classified in this health status. The CDC says that social factors such as poverty, lack of education, racism, and discrimination plus community conditions such as lack of resources that support physical activity or healthy eating options are to blame.
Over 20 vendors attended the event including Walgreens and the Chicago Family Health Center who were on-hand to provide both services and information. Congresswoman Kelly says that this type of joint effort is needed.
“The Health Fair was a collaborative effort to provide health screenings that will enable us to live healthier and longer lives,” Congresswoman Robin Kelly said. “We reached out to hundreds of people with vital information about diabetes, hypertension and other diseases that disproportionately affect African-American and Hispanic communities. Through my role as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Brain Trust, I’m actively working to reduce health disparities and have made it one of my top priorities to improve health outcomes in diverse communities.”
In addition to a focus on overall health, Marrah says that one of the big parts of the fair was getting kids ready for school and making back-to-school preparation easier on families. Free school supplies, back packs, and fresh produce were provided to over 500 children and families.
The fair’s location was of equal importance to organizers. Compassion Baptist Church, located at 2650 E. 95th Street, is located on the city’s Southeast side, serving the predominately African-American and Hispanic communities of Jeffrey Manor, Calumet Heights and South Deering with members also coming from the South Suburbs and Northwest Indiana. Its roots date back to 1879 when it was first incorporated as First Baptist Church of South Chicago.
“The church was a fantastic venue,” Marrah said. “Engaging with your church and your pastor is also a healthy choice.”
IlliniCare Health is one of the leading Medicaid health plans in Illinois, providing services to the aged, blind and disabled population – as well as those with low-income who are seeking affordable, quality health coverage through the Market Exchange. For more information, please visitwww.illinicare.com.