First Ladies Health Day Chicago

First Ladies Health Day - Chicago, IL
Sunday, September 11, 2016


Contact: Katrina Waddy (Parker)
312-545-7392 cell
312-470-0270 office

(Chicago) – On Sunday, September 11, to celebrate the 2016 National Day of Service & Remembrance, the First Ladies Health Initiative – a consortium of more than 160 pastors’ wives (First Ladies) from across the U.S. – will open the doors of nearly 50 houses of worship across greater Chicagoland to offer no costmedical testing and health screenings to detect or prevent systemic illnesses such as diabetes, hepatitis, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, obesity and certain forms of cancer. This year’s goal is to surpass 30,000 screenings for all ages.

“Since the church often serves as a hospital for the spiritually downtrodden, it’s a natural fit for our doors to open to offer health services and empower attendees to declare war on those chronic, often deadly medical issues,” said Jamell Meeks, First Ladies Health Day Chicago chairwoman and First Lady of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago. “We invite community residents – from those in a walker to those with a walker – to come out and take advantage of these life-saving tests.”

In 2006, Walgreens embraced faith-based outreach and programming which united local pastors’ wives to facilitate a plan designed to confront these troubling health disparities head-on. The result was the First Ladies Health Initiative which has expanded tremendously -- starting with the wives of 12 pastors in Chicago to 172 First Ladies from Chicago, Gary, Los Angeles and Orange County. To date, First Ladies Health Day is the nation’s largest of its kind, with nearly 200,000 medical tests and health screenings performed and many lives positively impacted.

In Chicago, the program now includes three predominately Hispanic house of worship: Christian Fellowship Flock South, Iglesia Bautista Casa Degracia, and Rebano Church.

John Gremer, director of Community Relations for Walgreens summed up the corporation’s commitment to advancing health in minority communities. “According to the Center for Disease Control, minority communities are disproportionately impacted by illnesses such as hepatitis C, hospitalizations related to hypertension, and other critical medical concerns. We had to do something to move these communities closer to healthy. Our support of the First Ladies Health Initiative started when it launched; and, today, we continue to share a common mission of creating healthier communities.”

The First Ladies Health Initiative is sponsored by Walgreens. Participating health providers for the Chicago event include: Harmony WellCare, Gilead, Pfizer, the Illinois Department of Public Health, NBC-5 Chicago, American Diabetes Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Haymarket Center, the American Heart Association, as well as the Coalition of the Willing which comprises over 30 healthcare companies, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, pharmaceutical and nursing students; and thousands of volunteers, including members of the LINKS and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. For more information and a complete listing of all participating churches and First Ladies, please visit; text HEALTH to 36363; or call 312-470-0270. Follow the action on social media using #FirstLadiesHealth.

About the First Ladies Health Initiative The First Ladies Health Initiative is held annually in metropolitan areas across the U.S., including Chicago, Gary, Ind., Los Angeles, and Orange County, Calif. It is designed to bring awareness to illnesses that disproportionately affect African Americans, Latinos and low-income communities; and increase first ladies’ participation in the Health Day. The program kicks off with a luncheon attended by nearly 200 pastors’ wives who receive information from medical professionals on how to educate their communities about various illnesses. The program culminates with First Ladies Health Day, the largest health day of its kind in the nation. Chicago’s Danielle Ashley Group manages the program on behalf of Walgreens. More information is available at

First Ladies Health Day - Chicago, IL
Sunday, September 27, 2015

‘First Ladies’ at 70 Chicago area churches to tackle health disparities --
Expanding initiative will have impact here and in South Africa

Contact: Francine Knowles
(312) 403-0023

CHICAGO, IL - African-American women church leaders in the Chicago area will join forces to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and other illnesses which reflect health disparities in their communities, and their efforts, which have already helped save lives locally, now will have impact across the globe.

The First Ladies Health Initiative, comprised of pastors’ wives from 70 churches in Chicago and Northwest Indiana, is partnering with sponsor Walgreens as well as bioLytical Laboratories and the Bishop Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation to offer free health tests simultaneously at churches here, Sunday, September 27.

Some 30,000 tests are expected to be administered for high blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS and other illnesses that disproportionately affect African-Americans.

In an exciting new venture, bioLytical will donate 800 of their INSTI® 60-second rapid HIV testing kits here, and for every test administered during the Chicago First Ladies Health Day, bioLytical also will donate a free INSTI® HIV test to the Bishop Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in South Africa.

The seventh annual free health day is open to church members and the community at large.

The First Ladies Health Initiative, launched in Chicago in 2008, has enabled more than 75,000 individuals to get screened for illnesses. The effort has expanded to now include Gary, IN, Los Angeles, Orange County, CA, and Cincinnati, OH.

First Ladies Health Initiative Executive Director Tracey Alston welcomes the new partnership with bioLytical.

“This amazing partnership brings us closer to achieving our goal of reducing healthcare disparities throughout the world,” she said. “When someone takes an HIV test during our First Ladies Health Day, they are also providing a potentially life-saving test to someone in Africa.”

The health day has made a difference locally over the years.

“We had a woman whose blood pressure was so high that they were going to call an ambulance, but she didn’t want to go in like that,” said Salem Baptist Church of Chicago First Lady Jamell Meeks, chair of the initiative. “She wanted to go on her own. So she did, and was hospitalized for three days while hospital personnel stabilized her pressure. She would have definitely been a stroke victim, if she hadn’t had the opportunity to have her blood pressure checked on the health day.

“On the first health day, we had a woman in her 60s who tested positive for HIV,” Meeks added. “It was great to be able to have her find that out, and get into treatment.”

African-Americans accounted for an estimated 44 percent of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents, despite representing only 12 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, incidents of hepatitis, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and other systemic illnesses are epidemic in the African-American community.

“We take great pride in helping thousands of community residents in the Chicago area through the First Ladies Health Day,” said Walgreens’ Director of Community Affairs John Gremer. "This important partnership with the First Ladies Health Initiative is indicative of Walgreens' commitment to positively and proactively help improve the health of our consumers.”

“bioLytical’s INSTI HIV-1/HIV-2 Antibody Test is perfect in outreach settings as it is the only test on the market that offers results in as little as 60 seconds," said Rick Galli, Chief Technical Officer of bioLytical Laboratories. “We are pleased to partner with the First Ladies Health Initiative and the Desmond Tutu HIV foundation to increase access to HIV testing both locally and globally.”

Tests will be performed by Walgreens pharmacists and health volunteers from Gilead, Harmony Health Plan of Illinois, the nursing schools of UIC, Rush University Medical Center and the City Colleges of Chicago, Oak Street Health and the AIDs Foundation of Chicago and more.

Pharmacists also will be equipped to administer flu immunizations, and each church will receive CPR kits and demonstrations from the American Heart Association and Illinois Heart Rescue. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois will be available at several churches to counsel participants on insurance options.

A complete list of churches participating in the Health Day on September 27 can be found here.

About The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation
The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation is a center of excellence for HIV and TB research. The foundation is a not-for-profit organization that has operated in association with the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town since 2004. It works in partnership with government health agencies and local and international partners to upscale and improve the management and treatment of HIV and tuberculosis and related infections.

About First Ladies Health Initiative
The First Ladies Health Initiative holds a FREE Health Day annually in Chicago, Northwest Indiana, Los Angeles and Orange County, CA; and Cincinnati, OH. The initiative is designed to bring awareness to illnesses that disproportionately affect African-Americans and Latinos and to offer FREE health screenings to individuals in their communities. The program begins with an Annual Luncheon attended by nearly 200 pastors’ wives for the purpose of recruiting them to host the FREE health screenings at their churches during our First Ladies Health Day. Visit

First Ladies Health Day - Chicago, IL
Sunday, September 28, 2014

'First Ladies' Expand Mission of Life-saving
Health Day with Record 64 Churches

City of Gary Joins Program to Provide Municipal Testing Site

CHICAGO (September 16, 2014) – Karen Whitehead, the first lady of Mt. Carmel Bible Church in Chicago, was told five years ago when she initially hosted the First Ladies Health Day -- this year scheduled for Sept. 28 -- that she had an abnormally high blood pressure rating and should see her doctor immediately.

Whitehead ignored the Walgreens pharmacist who delivered the news and postponed her doctor’s visit for about two months. When she finally did see her doctor, she learned that she had borderline high blood pressure, and was given a prescription for medical as well as lifestyle changes, all of which led to her now stable blood pressure and weight loss of 10 pounds.

Across town at Commonwealth Community Church in Chicago, 24-year-old Orlando Winfrey, Jr., the son of First Ladies Health Day ambassador Beatrice Winfrey, was given even more dire news just last year.

Winfrey was told by volunteer medical experts at the health day that he was not only borderline hypertensive, but also borderline diabetic. Mrs. Winfrey stated that the news shocked her son, her daughter and herself into adapting a healthier lifestyle, and together they have lost a combined 60 pounds.

This year’s First Ladies Health Day, which will simultaneously feature 50 churches in Chicago and for the first time, more than a dozen churches in Gary, Indiana, will no-doubt include additional remarkable stories of individuals who have learned the status of their health by seeking the free, life-saving services offered during the health day.

Currently in its sixth year, the health initiative is a non-profit program that depends on its army of volunteers and healthcare professionals to leverage existing relationships with the healthcare industry while constantly casting its line to find new partnerships each year.

The AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Walgreens Corporation, the University of Illinois, Roseland Community Hospital, Advocate Trinity Hospital, Rush University Medical Center and the University of Chicago Hospitals will all provide volunteer medical experts who will conduct the medical tests on site at the various churches.

Organizers are preparing for more than 20,000 individual health screenings this year, targeting HIV, breast cancer, diabetes, Hepatitis C, high blood pressure and other illnesses that disproportionately affect African Americans.

Several new and significant churches have been added to the past roster of Chicago participants, including Christ Universal Temple at 11901 S Ashland Avenue; Destiny Worship Center at 5510 West Chicago Avenue; and Greater Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church at 5856 South Wabash Avenue.

Jamell Meeks of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago returns for the sixth year as chairperson for the health initiative. Meeks says that while the annual health day is important to her congregants and other community members, it is the participants’ responsibility to follow-through with the valuable health information given them, and seek a doctor’s advice when that information is not good.

“The First Ladies program has proven to be life-saving in many situations, but what we try to impart to participants of the health day is that it is only one step in learning about their health. Unfortunately, the health day is often the only means to a evaluation that some of our community members have, which gives credence to its importance,” stated Meeks.

Although hosted by individual churches, anyone may attend either of the testing sites. A complete list of participating churches and times is available at

First Ladies Health Day - Chicago, IL
Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Chicago First Ladies Health Day took place on September 22, 2013 in 46 churches in the Chicago-land area. The First Ladies Health Initiative, sponsored by Walgreens, was created to inspire the First Ladies of the church to leverage their considerable influence to empower their congregations and community to make smart decisions regarding their health.


The Initiative launched in June, 2008 in Chicago with an historic, city-wide health day to provide information and screenings for diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, mental illness, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases along with flu immunizations.  Since then, the Initiative expanded to Los Angeles in 2011 and will continue to expand its programs to reach other major urban centers.  To date more than18,000 individuals have been screened for life-threatening illnesses and conditions and received valuable health information.

Click here to see the list of churches.

First Ladies Health Day - Chicago, IL
Sunday, September 23, 2012


**The First Ladies Health Day is the second tier in the First Ladies Health Initiative. Although the initiative has been executed only in Chicago, the campaign was extended to Los Angeles. The Inaugural First First Ladies Los Angeles Health Screening Day will took place on May 20, 2012.

The Chicago First Ladies Health Day will feature more than 30 churches hosting health screenings and information dissemination for various illnesses including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and other sicknesses that disproportionately affect the African-American community.

The screenings will take place on Sunday, September 23, 2011 immediately following church services. In addition to the health screenings, several churches also allowed various health care workers, in addition to Walgreens' Director of Community Affairs, John Gremer to address their congregations.

Click here to see the list of churches.