STEUBENVILLE — The theme for April’s observance of Minority Health Month in Jefferson County was intended to be “Healthy Together” as organizers remained hopeful that hosting normal in-person activities would be possible this year.
But with COVID-19 precautionary measures remaining in place, “being together” wasn’t doable, according to committee planner Cynthia Lytle, program and community development director for Urban Mission Ministries.
“After deliberations, and with much consideration for the health and safety of our Minority Health Month program participants, volunteers and staff, the planning committee determined it best to cancel most of our in-person activities and switch over to a virtual format,” Lytle said.
And that generated a new theme — “The State of Minority Health.”
Whatever the theme and no matter how information is conveyed, Minority Health Month, organizers agree, is an important time with an important mission.
In expounding on the theme, Lytle noted “The State of Minority Health” speaks to the current condition of minority health within the state and across the country.
“In addition to serving as our 2021 theme, ‘The State of Minority Health’ also is the title of a four-part virtual health series that will air Friday evenings in April and will address minority health disparities such as breast and prostate cancer, heart disease, COVID-19 and the implications of COVID-19 on mental health,” she said.
“The purpose of this virtual health series is to inform, educate and promote healthy dialogue between minorities and their local health care providers as well as promote and encourage preventative care,” Lytle said, adding “The State of Minority Health” will feature a collection of informative, educational interviews with health care professionals and community members who take the interviewers’ seat to “ask the docs.”
The virtual health series will air through Urban Mission’s Facebook page on the four Fridays in April, beginning at 7 p.m. nightly. The dates are April 9, 16, 23 and 30. Each episode will highlight a different health disparity and feature minority health care providers — some who serve locally and some serving in other parts of the country but have ties to or roots in the community.
The kickoff event for the month comes April 9 at 7 p.m. with the virtual health series episode “Cancer is Not Equal: The Importance of Mammogram and Prostate Screenings for Minorities.” It will feature local physician Dr. Vanessa Palmer, specializing in breast health and breast cancer prevention for African American women, and a local urologist, who will address the current disparity in minority mammogram and prostate screenings, and discuss steps minorities can take to improve their preventative health care habits.
The interview also will highlight and encourage participation in the mammogram and prostate screening events scheduled to take place as part of the Minority Health Month observance.
The series and other month’s events constitute the work of a Neighborhood Community Development Center/Minority Health Month committee that, aside from Lytle, involves Angela Kirtdoll and Jalil Harvey, marketing and publicity; Sharon Kirtdoll and Patti West, men’s free prostate screening event; Sandi Rue, the cardiovascular segment of the virtual health series; Dr. Vanessa Palmer, women’s mammogram screening event; and Michelle Hada and Jacqueline Gibson.
Each member plays a significant role in the development and implementation of the Minority Health Month observance, according to Lytle.
Minority Health Month isn’t necessarily limited to minorities, according to Lytle.
“While the targeted population for Minority Health Month events and activities is local minority communities, all Minority Health Month virtual and in-person events are open to all persons,” she said. “Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to one’s health. The goal is to educate and inform as many people as possible.”
In addition to the virtual health series, two in-person screenings make a welcomed comeback.
The “Mammograms & Lunch” women’s mammogram screening will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 23 at the Tiffany Breast Care Center Mobile Unit, which will be stationed at Urban Mission’s Fresh Market Pantry located at 311 N. Sixth St., Steubenville.
For information, contact Erica Miller, patient navigator, North West Ohio Breast & Cervical Cancer Project, at 419-335-3907.
The Neighborhood Community Development Center of Urban Mission will partner with the North West Ohio Breast and Cervical Cancer Project of Fulton County, the Tiffany Breast Care Center of Mahoning County and the Breast Health & Breast Cancer Prevention Program for African American Women of Jefferson County to provide women ages 21 and up with breast cancer screenings and diagnostic services, Lytle explained.
The men’s free prostate screening, meanwhile, will be held 4-7 p.m. April 27 at the Tony Teramana Cancer Center, 3204 Johnson Road, Steubenville. To schedule an appointment, call Barb Steitz, patient navigator, at 740-264-8207. For event questions, call Urban Mission’s main office at 740-282-8010.
For this event, the Neighborhood Community Development Center of Urban Mission will partner with the Tony Teramana Cancer Center (Trinity Health System), the Women in Action Against Cancer Coalition of Jefferson County, two local urologists and one nurse practitioner to provide men ages 40 and older with free digital and physical prostate exams.
That Minority Health Month planners have had to adopt alternative ways to have information events happen in the wake of the pandemic restrictions speaks to a creative let’s-do-this spirit.
“Prior to 2020, I’m not sure how often any of us would stop and say, ‘thank God for technology,’” Lytle said. “Over the past year, technology has made it possible for families to stay connected with each other, for teachers to continue educating their students, for pastors and preachers to remain consistent in encouraging their congregations and now for the message of Minority Health Month 2021 to go forth,” she commented.
“Apart from the prostate and mammogram screening events, MHM 2021 is a virtual event. Our health series will be recorded through Zoom and then aired on Facebook. Without technology, this year’s observance would not be possible, so thank God for technology.”
While technology helps make this year’s installment of Minority Health Month possible, community partnerships are a constant and vital facet when it comes to the success of events, according to Lytle.
“While the Urban Mission and Neighborhood Community Development Center can do a lot of things, we cannot do everything,” she said. “And thankfully, we are connected to so many wonderful organizations and businesses that are exceptional at what they do. When planning our events, we make it a priority to do it in partnership with our community. I continue to be amazed by the individuals who volunteer their talents and their time, the organizations that open their doors for our events, and the businesses that come alongside us to make each year a great success.”
With that being said, Lytle finds joy in being a part of the Minority Health Month planning and execution of events, activities and programming.
“The opportunity to serve my community through Minority Health Month is a privilege – it’s the kind of work that makes you proud at the end of each day. It truly brings me joy.
“I am also privileged to work with an exceptional group of people — the Neighborhood Community Development Center Advisory Committee. They are so gifted and talented and genuinely have hearts for their community. They help make Minority Health Month possible year after year, and lighten my load at the same time,” she said.
Asked what she would most like to get across to readers about what Minority Health Month is all about, Lytle responded, “As the community tunes into the virtual health series next month, they will hear the over-arching message of preventative care and why this message needs to be magnified for minorities.
“We’ve all heard the adage, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ and while we know that Benjamin Franklin was trying to prevent fires, his words also ring true for our overall health and well-being,” she said. “It is imperative that minorities begin to play a proactive, not reactive, role in their health. Our goal through this year’s observance is to provide the information, tools and resources to ‘prevent the fire.’”
Funding for Minority Health Month 2021 is provided by the Ohio Commission on Minority Health in Columbus.
“We also are also grateful for this year’s partnerships with the Tony Teramana Cancer Center, (Trinity Health System); the North West Ohio Breast and Cervical Cancer Project of Fulton County; the Tiffany Breast Care Center of Mahoning County; the Breast Health and Breast Cancer Prevention Program for African American Women of Steubenville; the Women In Action Against Cancer Coalition of Jefferson County; Dr. Gary Tan and Dr. Aaron Provenzano (Trinity Health System); and our health care professionals featured in ‘The State of Minority Health’ – Dr. Vanessa Palmer, Dr. Anthony Fletcher, Dr. Candis-Platt Houston, Dr. Angel Williams, Carletta Williams, FNP, and LeAnn Taylor, mental health therapist,” Lytle noted.
For information on Minority Health Month 2021, visit Urban Mission’s website at urbanmission.org or Facebook page or call 740-282-8010.
“We also have a Minority Health Month Steubenville Facebook page,” Lytle said.