NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Health disparities have long existed, and the COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the problem. An upcoming event will focus on the issue.
The Urban League of Louisiana and Ochsner Health have teamed up to host what is being called, “The Big Health Event.” It will take place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans on September 17 from 10 am to 4 pm.
Dr. Yvens Laborde is the Medical Director of Global Health Education and Public Health at Ochsner.
“We want to change the paradigm,” said Laborde. “Obviously, as a result of COVID, it became incredibly apparent how great the disparity was, in terms of the adverse effects of health outcomes on the African American population specifically.”
Tyronne Walker is Vice President of the Urban League of Louisiana.
“Health disparities mean African Americans are attracting illnesses and dying faster than whites in our state and the good news though is, we can do something about and that’s what the big health event is all about,” he said.
“Ochsner Health wants to take that on directly and one of the ways that we need to do that is to acknowledge it and understand the barriers that actually create those disparities because they don’t happen out of a vacuum, they’re long, historical basis and processes why things got the way they are, they don’t happen by accident,” said Laborde.
Access to health care is seen as a barrier for some in black and brown communities.
“One of the structural barriers that African Americans have and other underserved and under-resourced communities have are barriers to access to care and also the issue of equity,” said Laborde.
In the event, some critical medical tests will be available.
“In terms of the screenings, it’s going to be free, so we’re going to be prioritizing high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, we’re going to be prioritizing lung, we’re going to be providing breast cancer screenings, prostate cancer screenings,” said Laborde.
He says Louisiana ranks low on health-related metrics.
“We as a state, we rank 50th out of 50 states, according to America’s Health Rankings which is an annual analysis that’s done, of the nation’s health status, and so we rank 50. That means we are the unhealthiest state,” said Laborde . “And you can actually quantify that, in terms of, premature morbidity, mortality, disease burden, loss of economic output, psychological burden.”
Areas like social and economic factors, physical environment, clinical care, behaviors, and health outcomes are considered, in determining the rankings.
“Anybody who lives in Louisiana, regardless of your race, ethnicity, putting all of that aside, that’s a tag that we all wear, you know, you go anywhere in the United States you come from the state where it’s recognized that you’re the most unhealthy state as it relates to health outcomes in the entire country, that’s a reflection on everybody,” said Laborde.
He says the event will also help health care professionals learn from the community.
“Create a space where people feel that it’s welcoming, that they have experts and they have other opportunities to understand and also for us to learn from them and one of the things I really want to emphasize, the importance of solidarity because the inequities and the disparities ultimate are everyone’s problems because we’re all adversely impacted,” Laborde stated.
Health problems show up in kids as well.
“There is no shortage of people that understand that Louisiana too often ranks at the bottom of all kinds of indicators of health and in fact, the Annie E. Casey Foundation came out with a report that says not only does the state rank last in health , but we rank last in terms of health outcomes for our kids,” said Walker.
The event will have activities for children and seniors.
“It’s where you take a turbo-charged health expo, it meets Essence empowerment zone, we’re putting an experience together so that when people come you get an opportunity to learn resources that will help you make better health choices,” Walker said.
There will be activities for children as well.
“To stimulate the young brains because the earlier you STEM them and stimulate them the more likely they’re going to pursue academic pursuits and other things of that nature,” said Laborde. “We know that one of the critical factors that drive health outcomes is your level of education, so it’s not coincidental that we rank as one of the states with the highest rates of not graduating high school seniors and of college graduates.”
And attendees will get tips on cooking healthier.
“Some of the best African American chefs in our city are going to be putting on health demos to teach people how you can cook the favorite meals that we all enjoy as New Orleanians but how you can make those in a healthier way,” said Walker . FOX 8 is one of the partners for the event.
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