1,000 participate in second annual wellness walk

By Sean Barron



Antoine Watkins has many numbers programmed into his iPhone, but don’t assume that all of them are merely to make reaching friends and others easier.

Some are to make maintaining a healthful lifestyle easier.

“It’s important to know your health; it’s important to stay active,” the 20-year-old Akron man said.

Watkins should know. Within the last year, the Youngstown State University senior and pre-law major lost 35 pounds. He also has made major dietary alterations and assiduously monitors the numbers that record his sodium intake, carbohydrates consumed, added sugars and body fat — all of which are on his iPhone.

Exercise also is a vital part of the quest to stay healthy for Watkins, whose family has a history of heart problems and diabetes. So he joined an estimated 1,000 people taking part in Saturday’s second annual African American Male Wellness 5-kilometer Walk/Run that began at the Covelli Centre on East Front Street downtown.

More than 20 vendors were on hand for the event, which focused on black men, who suffer the highest rates of diabetes, prostate cancer, heart disease and stroke. But anyone was welcome to participate, noted Pam Gregory, a walk founder.

Heart disease, cancer, strokes and diabetes are the leading causes of death in the black population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The walk and run also stressed the importance of receiving periodic health checks and early prevention, Gregory said, adding that Gov. John Kasich declared August African-American Male Wellness Month.

The 5-foot, 7-inch, 138-pound Watkins, who finished third in the walk, said he tries to eat fresh fruits with each meal. He also has cut down on saturated fats, lifts weights five days a week and runs about 2 miles each week.

“It’s better to find out than be ignorant about it,” Watkins said, referring to the need for people to check their numbers.

From the Covelli Centre, participants walked down Market Street and Oak Hill Avenue on the South Side before returning to the Covelli Centre via Market.

Beforehand, many attendees took advantage of free health screenings in which they had their blood pressure and glucose, weight, body-mass index and cholesterol checked. Also available were tests for prostate cancer and diabetes.

Among those administering the screenings was Alexis Neumeister, a student nurse at ETI Technical College in Niles.

“A few people had higher-than-normal blood pressures,” but most had normal results, said Neumeister, who’s in a one-year program to be a licensed-practical nurse.

She and about 22 other students in the program took part in Saturday’s event, Neumeister added. Many participants also took advantage of an exercise and fitness class and enjoyed a variety of entertainment.

In addition, vendors provided information on sickle-cell anemia, health-care coverage and proper ways to get rid of expired and unused pharmaceutical and over-the-counter medications. Members of the Mahoning County Green Team urged people to refrain from flushing them down the drain.

Instead, they can dispose of them at three sites that collect them 24 hours a day, seven days a week:

Austintown Police Department, 92 Ohltown Road.

Beaver Township Police Department, 601 W. South Range Road, North Lima.

Boardman Police Department, 8299 Market St.

“We continue to grow, recognizing that the Mahoning Valley is a better place today partly because families are taking responsibility for their health, individually and collectively,” said the Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II, event coordinator and chairman.

Last year’s walk may have prevented a stroke for one person who was unaware that he had an extremely high sugar level and was taken to the hospital in time, recalled the Rev. Mr. Macklin, who’s also pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church on the South Side.

Certain lifestyle habits, genetics and other factors likely are responsible for the high incidence of heart disease, cancer and diabetes in black men, he said, adding that prevention is critical.

Honorary event chairmen were Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, McDonald Village Mayor Glenn W. Holmes and Jay Williams, a former Youngstown mayor who is the assistant secretary of commerce for economic development in President Barack Obama’s administration.