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Fear of bad medical news contributes to higher rate of disease in African Americans

Ethel Tribue sits down with a Community Network RN during the INShape Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair on July 16 at the Indiana Convention Center. PHOTO BY DANIELLE BEHRENS

It’s a vicious circle: African Americans are more likely to suffer from diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and many are more likely to avoid healthcare treatment – because they fear finding out that they are sick.

The annual Health Fair at Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration aims to step in and break that cycle, by providing free health examinations to seniors. The event, held Thursday, July 16, in the Indiana Convention Center, was so successful that a line snaked as carts transported more people to its end.

Many of those in attendance were African-American seniors like Helen Taylor. “The Health Fair is a way for a lot of people, who don’t have insurance, who are scared to go to the doctors, to get their tests done by people of your own color,” Taylor said.

Taylor agrees that fear keeps many African Americans from the doctor’s office. Her brother, Billy, who recently passed away, was having problems with his prostate. She said they would tell him to go to the doctor, but he wouldn’t go. However, Billy would go to Black Expo’s prostate van because he was scared.

Ethel Tribue had different reasons for attending the Health Fair – lack of health insurance. African Americans are 55 percent more likely to lack health insurance than their white counterparts, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

She added she does have insurance and “was raised to go (to the doctor) so we could live” but came to the Health Fair because she is disabled. Tribue sees the health fair as a way to better keep track of her health between doctors’ visits, adding that she always knows her blood pressure.

Health care professionals like Kayla Knox, IU Simon Cancer Center, realize the importance of events like the Health Fair for minorities. “I think it’s important because minorities tend to not seek health care as often as they should,” said Knox. “They’re scared that they’re going to be diagnosed with something and that’s more money involved. Also, fear of preconceived notions that they get from the media or from family members that doctors are going lie to them.”

Knox explained that the Health Fair is a way for minorities to get health exams without creating a financial burden, and their families can also be with them throughout the process as a support system.

The event also provided information and resources for those in attendance. Visitors had the opportunity to learn and participate in different exercises, get their teeth cleaned and try out new recipes for healthier eating.

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