A popular center in Northwest bustled with activity on Saturday during an event designed to educate the black community, especially young people, about the importance of staying fit.
More than 100 people filed through the doors of the Columbia Heights Educational Center for the "Youth Health Festival: Young. Healthy. YOUnited."
Visitors enjoyed a panel discussion, cooking and Zumba demonstrations along with a variety of health chats with experts that ranged from organ donation to teen violence. There were also an array of outdoor activities for children which kept them on the move during the April 21 event.
"Minorities are less likely to receive the preventative care that they need to stay healthy, and they have less access to care," said Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, the deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Minority Health. "And when they do receive help they receive a lower quality of care."
Doctors, like Gracia would probably agree that the expression, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" still rings true.
The festival is one of a slate of programs taking place during National Minority Health Month. The Office of Minority Health sponsored the afternoon program. This office is a sub-division of the Department of Health and Human Services that's dedicated to developing programs and proposing policy changes to counter health disparities among minorities.
"One thing that is helping is the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law which is making access to care better and making it affordable," said Gracia.
But she said going into communities to talk to parents and teenagers about healthy lifestyles is just as important.
National health statistics for blacks and Latinos are particularly troubling. Both groups experience higher rates of death caused by stroke, diabetes, and heart disease than whites. And blacks also have the highest infant mortality rate.
"We, as a nation, are not truly focused on preventative care for each and every citizen," said Tonya Lewis Lee, a writer and producer.
Lee, 46, a spokesperson for A Healthy Baby Begins with You, a national campaign dedicated to raising awareness about infant mortality, said these disparities are linked to racism and classism which can adversely affect a person's health, and expectant mothers are no exception.
"When a child dies before its first birthday, it's not just God's way," said Lee who is married to director Spike Lee. "There are things that can be done to make the world a little safer for that infant."