By Keith T. Barber
On Saturday, July 30, the N.C. Black Alliance, in conjunction with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, will hold its inaugural statewide health fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Binkley Baptist Church located at 1712 Willow Drive in Chapel Hill.
Binkley Baptist Church will serve as one of dozens of faith partners across the state in this important endeavor, said Lorie Clark, executive director of the Hannah Ruth Foundation.
“We believe knowledge saves lives,” Clark said. “The event on Saturday is to bring awareness about health disparities and to also provide people with knowledge and awareness about issues that affect them at alarming rates. Historically we know people of color have many diseases as a result of stress.”
Karida Giddings, health care program coordinator for the N.C. Black Alliance, said each health fair event will be tailored to the specific region in which it’s held.
“This is the first for the organization and also hopefully the first of many more opportunities to partner with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, and other grassroots organizations to reach [residents] that maybe don’t always get reached by the traditional healthcare system,” Giddings said. “When it’s hosted by people that are within these grassroots organizations — maybe it’s their neighbor or their child’s teacher — familiar faces really help to bring out community support and participation.”
According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, analyses of federal, state, and local data have shown that people of color have experienced a disproportionate burden of cases and deaths.
“Communities can play a really powerful role in helping to bring marginalized communities closer to to resources related to healthcare,” Giddings said. “Whether that’s bringing them closer to vaccinations, COVID testing, or providing information that they may not be able to reach…sometimes those personal one-on-one relationships can be more powerful than just sending out mass messaging.”
“We need those closer-knit connections to help people get to these resources, but also to work within their systems of trust,” Giddings added.
The N.C. Black Alliance is a nonprofit that addresses policy and economic issues to enhance black communities by developing and promoting systemic policy change as well as youth and leadership development, according to the organization’s website.
Clark said access to equitable healthcare can simply be an issue of trust in a healthcare system that has historically underserved and discriminated against communities of color.
“Often people wait until they are extremely sick to seek medical care,” Clark said. “That’s because there is a lack of confidence and trust in the healthcare system. While many residents can afford preventative and regular exams, the same opportunities do not exist for people with limited or no healthcare.”
Giddings said the presence of community leaders and representatives from Chapel Hill and Carrboro organizations at Saturday’s event like Clark will hopefully attract more people of color by directly addressing the Black community’s inherent mistrust of the healthcare system.
“There’s comfort and trust that comes with seeing familiar faces,” Giddings said. “That’s my hope — people will recognize familiar faces that are affiliated and associated with this event. The history of the NAACP in Chapel Hill and Carrboro — those are all familiar names, familiar faces that I’m hoping will allow people to come out, support and get the resources that they need.”
Clark said the role of nonprofits like the Hannah Ruth Foundation is to raise awareness about issues related to equitable healthcare access — specifically the necessity of access, screenings and routine preventive healthcare.
“When people are aware of symptoms that potentially cause life-threatening issues, they know when to seek medical attention,” Clark added.
Giddings said the number one priority of the N.C. Black Alliance’s statewide health fair initiative is simple — to save lives.
“We want to make sure our communities are protected from [COVID-19],” Giddings said. “We want to make sure everybody’s protected from the virus. But we know because of the impact from the beginning of the pandemic — those people who are essential workers, those people who cannot afford to take off work in kind or stay home with their kids or help their kids with their homework.. all of those various factors weigh so heavily on Black and brown communities.”
Giddings said the messaging about how to navigate the global pandemic will be a top priority at Saturday’s health fair.
“Whether it’s social distancing, whether it’s masking indoors and outdoors — just taking those precautions based on what you know to be your health circumstances,” she said. “Just being very mindful and intentional about how we protect ourselves, one another and our community.”
For further information, visit: https://ncblackalliance.org/event/statewide-health-fair/