Wellness walk/run highlights healthier lifestyle

Depending on when you read your Vindicator today, I will be walking in the second African-American Male Wellness Walk/Run of the Mahoning Valley, or I will have completed the 5K event.

The first walk/run last summer began and ended at Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church on Youngstown’s South Side.

Today’s walk/run route started at the Covelli Centre, went up Market Street, wended its way through a portion of Youngstown’s South Side, and returned back down Market to where it began.

The pastor of Holy Trinity, the Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II, is the coordinator of the event, which he said was established to provide a mechanism for black men, women and children to actively take charge of their health, destiny and well-being “through health awareness and prevention.”

Don’t let the name fool you, the Rev. Mr. Macklin said.

Though the focus is on black men, who are disproportionately affected by diabetes, prostate cancer, heart disease and other health issues, the whole community — men and women, black and white — did participate.

Mr. Macklin said last year, 348 men were screened and nearly 900 participated in the walk/run. I will have to check with him next week to see what the numbers were for 2014.

Before the walk/run began, there were free health screenings for the entire family. There also was entertainment and a warm-up activity before folks started to pound the pavement.

The voluntary screenings were provided by Humility of Mary Health Partners and doctors and health professionals who volunteered their time and services throughout the day.

The screenings were for hypertension (high blood pressure), curvature of the spine, prostate-specific antigen blood test for prostate cancer, diabetes and other noninvasive tests.

Damon Maloney, co-anchor of WKBN 27 “First News,” and I were honorary chairmen for the 2013 walk/run.

Honorary chairmen for this year’s event were McDonald Mayor Glenn Holmes, Warren Mayor Doug Franklin and Jay Williams, former Youngstown mayor, who is now the U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development in the Obama administration.

Children enjoyed a health wellness village, which included a bounce-around and other activities, healthful snacks and vision screening.

Kudos to Dr. Lashale D. Pugh, coordinator of the volunteers. She had the task of asking folks to help with the walk, including setup and cleanup. Some volunteers arrived as early as 5:30 a.m.

There also was an incentive to the screenings. Those who took part were given half-off on the entry fee to today’s Greater Youngstown Italian Festival, which ends Sunday.

I am a prostate-cancer survivor. My subsequent blood tests since my robotic prostatectomy April 1, 2013, have shown no trace of cancer. God has truly blessed me, and I want to encourage all men, especially black men, to be proactive about their health.

I displayed no symptoms of any prostate problems. A digital exam by my urologist showed no abnormalities, but the blood test — the PSA — showed I had cancer.

Because of the early detection, I was able to choose from several options to deal with my situation. I decided to have the prostate removed before the cancer could spread.

Physicians are at a loss to explain why black men have higher rates of prostate cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart disease than white or Asian men.

Heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are the four leading causes of death for blacks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Theories abound from diet to heredity and other factors, including lack of consistent exercise.

The bottom line is to have an annual physical. Early detection of any medical problems gives you more treatment options.

I know health care is not cheap. It is a challenge for many in our community to pay for medical care. Hopefully, those who signed up for President Obama’s health care law will now be able to have access to affordable health insurance.

For those who have access to information technology, there are numerous websites dedicated to providing you with proper diets and exercise options.

Thanks again to Mr. Macklin, vendors, volunteers and all those who donated their time and efforts to the wellness walk/run. Let’s hope the event continues every year to spread the message of doing all you can to create a healthier lifestyle.

It all begins by taking a walk.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at ebrown@vindy.com.