Minority Health Fair to provide resources, raise awareness

Health disparities experienced by minorities in West Virginia will be the topic of the Inaugural Minority Health Fair from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17 in BE5 of the Memorial Student Center. 

Issues ranging from misdiagnoses and lack of health literacy will be covered at the fair, said Minority Health Coordinator LaDawna Walker-Dean.

“The objective is to help bridge the gap between the community and students and provide more health resources to minority students on campus,” Walker-Dean said. “I want to also inform the community that a minority is not just an African-American person, it can be any race depending on different variables including social status, income and population.”

Research done by the department states that minorities may be hesitant to seek health care due to various reasons, including prior misdiagnoses by medical professionals and a lack of health literacy.

Student volunteer and secretary of the Health Science Society, Jay Salters, said he is thrilled to take part in the event.

“This is really important because minorities don’t have much representation on Marshall’s campus and learning about disparities amongst minorities will allow the community to better understand the barriers associated with obtaining the appropriate healthcare services,” Salters said. “The stereotypes and stigmas that are correlated with the word ‘minority’ should be eradicated and not only linked with African-Americans.” 

Dean of the Department of Public Health Anthony Woart said the minority population in West Virginia is roughly 5%, but there is a substantial disproportion in disease diagnoses and mortalities compared to the majority. 

“Even though we have a very small population of minorities in West Virginia, the epidemic data in correlation to disease diagnoses in are significantly high in the minority populations,” Woart said.

Woart also said minorities disproportionally bear the burden of ailments in West Virginia including HIV/AIDS, diabetes and hypertension, meaning they are more likely to die from these illnesses.

The WV Minority Health Institute’s goal is to carry out health initiatives and decrease the number of mortality rates and diagnoses of different ailments through preventive care and proper medical treatment and resources, according to Woart.

Woart said he hopes the health fair brings awareness to the community about minorities and gives them information about the social determinants of acute and chronic diseases, including lack of awareness about access to health care, disease exposure and screening availability in the area. 

Walker-Dean said her inspiration behind organizing the event came after doing research and realizing that Marshall has never had a Minority Health Fair on campus. 

“We will have dynamic speakers and panel discussions to focus on raising awareness about different health disparities affecting minorities in the Tri-State area, including diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular diseases and cancer,” Walker-Dean said. “Students may also be able to find employment, partnerships and collaboration with some of the community agents that will be coming to offer assistance and inform them of what services are available in Huntington.”

There will also be student vendors present to help spread awareness and provide information about resources on campus such as the LGBTQ+ Office and the psychology department.  

Walker-Dean said the guest speaker is a Huntington native who was diagnosed with HIV and is a member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“The panel will be an open forum of discussion to help get to know one another while also eradicating stigma that goes on in our community and other minority communities,” Walker-Dean said. 

Those interested in learning more information may contact Walker-Dean at [email protected]. 

Taylor Speight can be contacted at [email protected].