Making Black Men’s Health a Priority

The man stopped by the ChristianaCare Center for Virtual Health table only to get his blood pressure checked. By the time he walked away, he not only knew his blood pressure reading — he also had an appointment scheduled to see a ChristianaCare provider the next week.

Caregivers from the Center for Virtual Health offered health screenings and vaccines at the Man Up! For Better Health Fair.

That’s the power of ChristianaCare’s connection to the community, said Milli Ogwayo, patient digital ambassador with the Center for Virtual Health. Ogwayo was among the ChristianaCare health professionals providing services at the Man Up! For Better Health Fair at The Warehouse in Wilmington on Dec. 2.

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The event was organized by 100 Black Men of Delaware, a local chapter of an international organization dedicated to elevating opportunities for African Americans and improving health, education and economic empowerment.

“When something like this happens, I’m so excited. Because to me, that’s reaching out to the community. Without the resources we have, without us checking his blood pressure, he doesn’t know his own risks,” Ogwayo said.

“By talking to us today, we can help him before it becomes something else, something bigger.”

Offering needed health resources

ChristianaCare was among several organizations that sponsored and participated in the daylong event, which included free health screenings, haircuts, massages and lunch, provided by local businesses and community organizations. Caregivers offered blood pressure screenings, COVID-19 and flu vaccines and other resources focused on healthy living through diet, smoking cessation and other preventive measures.

Community health outreach at The Warehouse is part of ChristianaCare’s commitment to its neighbors.

Markevis Gideon, president of 100 Black Men of Delaware, which coordinated the event, said it’s important for Black men to have the opportunity to play a role in their own health. Nationally, Black men have higher rates of disease and shorter life spans than their counterparts from other racial groups.

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Gideon said there’s a push locally to eliminate stigmas and obstacles that can make it hard for men of color to talk openly about and seek help for their health. Events like Man Up! For Better Health help normalize the experience, and the organization is working with other community groups, including the United Way, to prioritize Black health.

“We’re starting a conversation,” said Gideon, founder and local business owner. “We’re here to break down barriers to health that a lot of people don’t see.”

Making time for health

For Godwin Akinrinde, the health fair gave him a chance to cross an important to-do off his list, along with getting his blood pressure checked.

“I’ve been trying to make time for this booster,” he said after getting his COVID-19 bivalent booster shot. “I had some time today.”

Patrick Mosley attended the Man Up! health fair to meet people after moving to Delaware from Philadelphia. He also got his COVID-19 booster since ChristianaCare caregivers made it so convenient.

The Warehouse is located in Riverside, the northeast corner of Wilmington, one of the city’s oldest but most underserved and under-resourced neighborhoods.

As part of ChristianaCare’s commitment to improving the health of the community, it has added access points for in-person and virtual health services, including ChristianaCare Virtual Health at Kingswood Community Center, which opened in 2021. Located at The Coker Family Resource Center, this model of health care is designed to be convenient, personalized and coordinated. In 2019, ChristianaCare made a $1 million gift to REACH Riverside Development Corporation to support community health and youth development programs, including The Warehouse.

Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki visited withChristianaCare health care professionals who helped attendees find positive ways to make “daily deposits” to their health.

Creating a community of health is something that takes time to develop but will lead to other benefits that affect health such as education, finances and family well-being, said Lovell Kosh, part of the wellness committee for the 100 Black Men of Delaware.

“Good health starts off by finding a baseline of where your health is,” said Kosh, a strength and conditioning coach and local business owner.

“That might be knowing if you have diabetes or getting your blood pressure. From there, you try to find healthier, more positive ways to make daily deposits to your health.”