GHS’ annual Minority Health Summit to provide more for youth

GREENVILLE, S.C. (March 10, 2017)—Diabetes, mental health and a new focus on youth will be the themes of the 11th annual Greenville Health System Minority Health Summit.

The event will be held Saturday, April 8 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the TD Convention Center in Greenville. Former NFL player and Clemson University quarterback Tajh Boyd will be the keynote speaker.

“The Minority Health Summit has a track record of empowering people with education and the support that contributes to healthy lifestyle changes,” said Melinda Hudson Gillispie, community relations coordinator with GHS. “We’re excited to celebrate our 11th year and we are looking forward to changing the event up a bit with education features for adults and youth.”

The GHS Minority Health Summit is a free event with lunch provided, but registration is required. People can register at ghs.org/minorityhealthsummit or by calling 1-877-GHS-INFO (447-4636).

The summit is held each April in accordance with National Minority Health Awareness Month. The event raises awareness about diseases that disproportionately impact minority communities while offering life-changing information and access to basic health screenings and an introduction to various nonprofits serving the community.  This year, youth ages 11 and older are encouraged to participate in the summit with adult members of their families.

“It’s important that we make sure young people better understand chronic diseases, including diabetes,” said Dr. Leon Buffaloe, a GHS internist with GHS Family & Internal Medicine-Simpsonville. “These conditions impact many people and families in our community. Unfortunately, childhood obesity rates have led to many youth being diagnosed with chronic diseases, like diabetes, earlier in life than we have seen in previous generations.”

According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, South Carolina has the seventh highest prevalence of diabetes in the United States. One in eight adults in the state has diabetes and the rates are higher in minority communities. One in 6 African Americans has the disease. Childhood obesity has grabbed national attention over the past few years and this epidemic has contributed to a rise in children and teenagers being diagnosed with chronic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol that mostly impacted adults. According to DHEC, 16.7 percent children ages 2 to 17 in the state are obese. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, strokes and amputations.

Mental health is another important topic that will be addressed during the summit. One in four U.S. adults experience mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). One in 17 people live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental illness than the general population. One in four African Americans seek mental health care compared to 40 percent of whites.

“It is important that we have discussions about mental health in settings like the Minority Health Summit,” said Dr. Kenneth Rogers, chair of psychiatry for GHS and the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. “There is a need to clarify misunderstandings that some people have about treating mental illness and we must reduce and eliminate barriers that keep many from seeking help.”

Inviting more youth to the 2017 Minority Health Summit will not only give them an opportunity to learn information regarding health, but it will expose young people to careers in healthcare.

“We want to make sure our youth understand the opportunities that are available to them, as well as the resources and people who are available to lend support if a medical career is right for them,” said Brenda Thames, Ed.D, executive vice president and provost of the GHS Health Sciences Center. “There will be opportunities to learn about the GHS MedEx Academy and the GHS Historically Black Colleges and Universities Initiative as well as chances to meet medical students attending the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.”

Boyd has a passion for mentoring young people. He is a Clemson graduate and volunteer with Greenville County youth. He set a number of offensive records at Clemson, including an Atlantic Coast Conference record of 133 touchdowns. He was named the ACC Player of the Year in 2012. Boyd was drafted by the N.Y. Jets in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He also signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and two Canadian Football League teams. He currently has a foundation where he mentors youth and gives back to the community.

In addition to Boyd, the Minority Health Summit will include a comedy routine by Akintunde, who was named the Dove Award’s 2014 Comedian of the Year, as well as a high-energy dance party led by Crunk Cardio LIVE with Shauna Marie and a performance by the Phyllis Wheatley Repertory Theatre.

Learn more about the event at ghs.org/minorityhealthsummit.

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