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(click HERE to visit additional slideshow from the 11th Annual Hamilton County Minority Health Fair)
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) - Empowering and educating minorities to close the health gap was the theme at the 11th annual minority health fair and research has show that gap to be pretty significant in Hamilton County.
On Saturday morning, hundreds if not thousands of people packed into the Eastgate Town Center to take advantage of an event many people pay for which is face-to-face time with a medical professional.
When it comes to taking ones health seriously, Jacqueline Sorrell said she refuses to be uneducated about her medical status. She like so many others who attended the minority health fair is concerned about diseases like diabetes that are greatly affecting the African American community in Hamilton County. WDEF caught up with Sorrell just after she got her blood levels tested at one of the make shift medial stations.
"My mother was diagnosed with diabetes and at one time they told me my A1C was high but it did go down as I do occasionally check it here or I let her check it for me," Sorrell said.
Medical experts at the fair said people need to become more educated about diabetes prevention since the disease is more prevalent among African Americans.
"If there is difficulty in treating that, it can lead to many complications such as problems with your eye sight, circulation and kidneys so it's very important to screen these individuals before so we can treat it on the front in," said John Lewis of UT Erlanger Internal Medicine Program.
According to a recent study that was conducted in Hamilton County, the death rate for African Americans is more than double the death rate for Caucasians when it comes to diabetes. WDEF asked Sorrell why she thinks so many blacks are loosing their lives to a preventable and often treatable disease.
"They don't think it's very serious and therefor they don't eat like they should and exercise and just generally take care of themselves. You can live with this and you can over come it," Sorrell said.
Another African American woman, Jacquelyn Smith of Alabama said she's been coming to the annual minority health fair for many years and always looks forward to each event.
"I usually come every year because I always want to know what I can do to better my health and to have a longer life," Smith said.
Smith and Sorrell have a good reason to be concerned as do many African Americans after new research that was done on the mortality gap between Caucasians and African Americans in Hamilton County.
According to the data, smoking related deaths are 20% higher in the African American community. Heart disease related deaths are 61% higher in the same demographic. When it comes to deaths related to cancer, the rate is 18% higher and there is an increased chance for African American babies to die before their first birthday.
WDEF came across several tables at the health fair that were devoted to women's health. Many black women suffer from conditions that are treatable without surgery but may never know unless they routinely saw a doctor. Marjorie Coley of the Center for Image-Guided Medicine
out of Atlanta said the event allows her staff to educate women about illnesses that don't have to become major problems.
"We just want women to become more educated so that we can share information with each other. First of all you have to recognize you have a problem. Then you have to find out the different options that you have," said Coley.
Overall, the free event allowed people that one chance get up close and personal with a medical professional without needing an insurance card or an appointment.