According to The Center for Disease Control, there is bad news and good news when it comes to heart disease. The bad news: Latino Americans and African Americans are at higher risk for heart disease and in comparison to Caucasian men, women and people of color are treated for the ailment at lesser rates. The good news: wider-spread educational initiatives are helping to close the gap in those disparities and individual risk factors, and the Association of Black Cardiologists is part of that national effort.
During the month of October,The Association of Black Cardiologists is presenting the Spirit of the Heart Community Education and Health Fair, a health weekend tour campaign stopping in Pittsburgh, Macon, Richmond and today from noon to 5pm at Concord Church in Dallas to heighten awareness of cardiovascular disease and prevention. In addition keynote presentations, the free event features health screenings, keynote speakers and community resources benefiting children and adults, actor and community activist, television and film actor Lamman Rucker (Meet The Browns, Why Did I Get Married, Greenleaf). “It is imperative that we educate our communities about the new life-saving technologies that are available,” says Aaron Horne Jr., MD of the Cardiac and Vascular Interventional Group. “Please join us….to ensure that our families have access to the technologies that are provided to those that are wealthy and well-connected.”
Before arriving in Dallas at the Spirit of the Heart Community Education and Health Fair, Rucker, 45, spoke by phone about his commitment to the cause, the unique risks to African-Americans and what fans of his Greenleaf character, Jacob, can look forward to next.
What made you join forces with ABC?
“It’s a partnership I’ve had with the organization for a couple of years now; the educator and activist in me wants to bring my passion for public health and communities of color and eradicate the disparities in HIV and heart disease rates. It’s one of the big purple monsters that no one wants to talk about, which is literally killing us every day, minute by minute, at a disproportionate rate.”
What are the elements that make heart disease so prevalent in our communities versus other groups in the United States?
“Communities of color sometimes live in physical environments filled with pollution and ‘food deserts’ [meaning] good food and quality nutrition is difficult to have access to.
There’s a lot we have to unlearn, cultural issues and other things we remember, like hearing adults tell us, ‘don’t waste no food,’ or hearing Grandma say, “you’re too skinny, you need to have meat on your bones.” Trust me, I love my food and I can be twice my size now if I let my eyes get bigger than the stomach. It’s about discipline, self-control and foresight, longer-term thinking connected to what’s best for you and people around you. Habits become patterns and people don’t realize the calories they’re putting on.
There’s always a lot of talk about whether or not sex ed should be discussed in health class, but there’s hardly ever talk about understanding how bodies function to live life in a healthier way.”
“I’m still trying to figure out where he falls in the whole scheme of the family hierarchy. He’s part of an incredible family and it’s no accident that they’re in the position that they’re in, as beacons of community, but they’re screwed up and have serious issues! Jacob is in a kind of limbo almost; his mother treats him like a baby, his father uses him like a chess piece and his wife doesn’t give a lot of emotional support. People see themselves in his journey and maybe leaving his father’s church will help him to find the courage to step out on his own.”