CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) - The health gap that exist between African Americans and Caucasians within Hamilton county was more evident on Saturday when nearly 4,000 people showed up for the 11th annual Minority Health Fair.
For many African Americans who attended the event, it was probably the closest they will get to an annual medical check-up and there's a laundry list of reasons why it has become a sad reality in throughout the Chattanooga metropolitan area.
"Transportation, financial and just a lot of other things that people are dealing with and unfortunately health insurance gets put down at the bottom of the list," said Medicare outreach coordinator Katherlyn Geter.
When it comes to health insurance, a recent report shows that more African Americans within Hamilton County or the Chattanooga metropolitan area are either uninsured or under insured compared to Caucasians. Part of the reasons why many people don't have insurance is because they don't have a job to pay for it. Chattanooga city councilman Yusuf Hakeem said that's no excuse to stay know ones own health status.
"There's a mindset that if I don't have job, I can't access these but the reality is that people can access them today," Yusuf said.
Another issue is the political myths that center around the affordable care act. Myths that have become lightning rods during debates by politicians.
"There are a lot of myths and that's the unfortunate side for people like me who are advocating on behalf of people without insurance. We have to first dispel those myths and we have to pull people back and say this is really what it means for you. Make it individual. Make it personalized," said Geter.
"Most of the questions that we received were about Medicare and social security. They want to know how what's going to effect them," said Project Access coordinator Brenda Doresk.
Chattanooga city leaders say when thousands of people within the African American community don't have health insurance and show up to a health fair just to see a doctor then it makes a serious statement.
"It sends a message that we need to do more to insure people are able to get services they need. There's a responsibility that we have as city leaders to get this done, said Yusuf.
Even though Yusuf acknowledges government should do it's part to help people gain access to affordable health care, he also said the responsibility doesn't rest solely on government alone.
"No one will treat you better than yourself. We need to take up the responsibility ourselves. The access is there; the understanding and education but we need to take advantage of it and not blame everyone else for what's taken place," he said.
Saturday's health fair was a put together by a collaboration of historically black fraternities and sororities.