By Marissa Lee
Prostate cancer disproportionately affects black males compared to their white counterparts. While reasons for this remain unclear, psychosocial factors and a later diagnosed may contribute to these increased prostate cancer outcomes. Loma Linda University’s Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine (CHDMM) has been doing research to investigate the role of stress due to racial discrimination and minority experience on the increased rates of prostate cancer among black males.
Sunday February 26th, 2017 marked the first Black Men’s Health Fair in the Desert Highland Gateway Community in Palm Springs, CA. Hosted by Loma Linda University’s CHDMM, Schools of Public Health, Nursing, and Behavioral Health, and the Desert Highland Gateway Wellness Committee, this health fair focused on education and testing for prostate cancer in black males in the community. From 9am to 4pm, the gym of the James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center was filled with volunteers from the Schools of Public Health, Dentistry, and Nursing at Loma Linda University, Borrego Health, the Desert Regional Medical Center, Desert AIDs Project, and significantly the Community Health Workers from the Desert Highland Gateway Wellness Committee. About 52 males participated and received prostate cancer education, blood pressure screenings, glucose testing, cholesterol screenings, body mass index and waist circumference, lifestyle education, health insurance sign ups, prostate cancer education, and a dental check-up. Some of the fair’s sponsors included Stater Brothers, Albertsons, Ascena Golf Club, and Trader Joes.
While some volunteers and organizers felt disappointment over smaller than expected participation rates, they recognize that simply showing up in the community as they promised was the first step in building trust with community members. In a community with a history of social injustice, distrust and broken promises, ownership of health change must come from within. The event organizer, Christopher Montgomery, commented that despite the lower than expected participation rates, the process of working with the community in organizing this event “Strengthened my belief in mankind again.” The perseverance and resilience of the community drew the support and admiration from sponsors and volunteers alike. This spirit is the hope of the community and Montgomery hopes events such as this health fair provide the spark to help the community recognize and own the power that is already theirs to make lasting change in the health of their community.