Picture this: Three teenage boys live in an inner city plagued by violence, drugs and other unhealthy influences. They make a pact to leave that environment, become doctors and eventually return to the city where they grew up to help improve the health of the community. Years later, The Three Doctors, as they are now called, are transforming their city through their service.
This inspiring true story is the backdrop of Prisma Health’ upcoming 12th annual Community Health Summit, a family-friendly event that educates the public about health disparities facing diverse and at-risk communities, especially in our region. The Three Doctors will highlight a fun and informative day full of presentations, physician panels, free health screenings and more.
This year, the event specifically focuses on diabetes and mental health, both of which disproportionally affect underrepresented populations. Greenville falls squarely in the middle of what is known as the “Diabetes Belt,” the area with the highest prevalence of diabetes in the country. Within that belt, the percentage of African-Americans diagnosed with diabetes is nearly double that of non-Hispanic whites. Diabetes can be a debilitating chronic condition if not properly treated, but can be caught and managed with the right tools and resources. The free health screenings offered at the event will check for warning signs of diabetes and other chronic diseases, empowering attendees to be informed about their bodies and take control of their health.
Minority communities face similar disparities in care for mental health. We know that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and that 90% of those who commit suicide have mental health issues. But we also know that African-Americans and Hispanic Americans use mental health services at half the rate of white Americans. Asian Americans use them at one-third the rate of white Americans. The Community Health Summit will connect attendees with resources to help them navigate mental health challenges in a non-judgmental environment. By encouraging people to take the first step in addressing mental health issues, we as a community take a small step towards improving these statistics.
The Community Health Summit also looks to educate and encourage the youth population. The Three Doctors’ story takes place in Newark, N.J., but we believe that this story could be easily replicated by young people in Greenville. Our presentation on careers in health care will expose students to different job opportunities they can explore right here at home. From technicians to nurses to surgeons, there are many ways to impact the healthcare field, and we hope students walk away inspired.
No matter your motivation for attending this year’s summit, the statistics are clear—we are all plagued by the same health problems, but the solutions aren’t reaching underrepresented communities. The Community Health Summit is here to start the conversation. We hope you’ll join us.
The Community Health Summit takes place Saturday, April 7 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Registration, lunch and parking are FREE. To learn more and register, visit www.ghs.org/summit.
Melinda Gillespie, MSN, RN is Manager of Multicultural Affairs and Pipeline Initiatives at Greenville Health System.