Gary panel addresses African-American heart health - November 2, 2018

Courtesy of The Chicago Tribune

Written by Meredith Colias-Pete

A panel on African-American heart health emphasized the need for exercise, access to
information and getting better participation in clinical trials.

The discussion — a collaboration with the Association of Black Cardiologists and Methodist Hospitals — was held Friday at St. Timothy Community Church in Gary.

Dr. Reuben Rutland, Gary’s health commissioner, said a focus needed to be on prevention and exercise.

“Start now. If you are living a sedentary lifestyle and you are home — start walking,” he said. “If you go to the mall, walk around the mall. Get out there and do some type of activity.”

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the city has a role to provide any access it can to health information.

“Every time we have the opportunity to provide that access, we have used city hall every time,” she said. “Sign up for the Affordable Care Act. You can do that in city hall.”

Panelists included Rutland, Freeman-Wilson, attorney Myra Selby, state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, the Rev. Dr. David Neville, Methodist’s director of Spiritual Care, and Community HealthNet Executive Director Dr. Janet Seabrook.

Denise Dillard, Methodist’s senior consultant for government and external affairs, moderated the discussion.

Dr. Andre Artis, head of Methodist’s Heart and Vascular Institute called for greater participation in clinical trials, noting African-Americans continue to be acutely underrepresented.

The legacy of the Tuskegee syphilis experiments has continued to make many distrustful of medical trials, he said.

Methodist Hospitals and the Association of Black Cardiologists will host a health fair at St. Timothy Community Church, 1600 W. 25th Ave. in Gary from 8 a.m. till noon Saturday.

During the heart forum last year, Freeman-Wilson spoke on how heart disease affected her own family when her steelworker father died nearly three decades before.

Only 57, the cause was a massive heart attack, she said.

Earlier that day, when she “left the house, told him I was going somewhere,” Freeman-Wilson said, “and when I got back later that afternoon, he was gone; no warning.”

According to a Community Health Needs Assessment released by Methodist in 2016, heart disease is the leading cause of death in Lake County.

It stated 186.9 per 100,000 people died of heart disease in Lake County, compared to 170.5
nationally, according to 2015 figures cited in the report.

Asked to rank local public health threats, respondents at Methodist Northlake in Gary listed heart disease after diabetes, obesity, substance abuse and mental health.