(Los Angeles) – The statistics are beyond alarming. Cases of sexually-transmitted diseases have reached all-time highs in the United States. African Americans account for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents. African-American and Latino communities also suffer from a higher prevalence of preventable, systemic illnesses – such as hepatitis, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and certain forms of cancer.
Realizing that action must be taken, Walgreens assembled the First Ladies Health Initiative, a consortium of more than 100 pastors’ wives (First Ladies) from across the United States to confront these troubling health disparities. During its First Ladies Health Days, houses of worship representing all denominations in four major metropolitan areas will open their doors to the community to provide free medical testing for a variety of illnesses and conditions. Since the program began in 2008, nearly 200,000 medical and health tests have been performed and many lives have been saved.
On April 10, the First Ladies Health Initiative will kick off the 2016 season with its First Ladies Health Day in Los Angeles. The event is hosted by 35 First Ladies, ranging in age from 30 to 82, who represent congregations of more than 10,000 people. Together, they are utilizing their collective influence to stage a citywide health takeover, directing their communities to get tested, know their health status and actively participate in wellness programs.
“In our communities, the church serves a multitude of purposes, including ‘hospital’ for the spiritually downtrodden; so, it is a natural fit to open the doors of the church to offer these health services, empowering attendees of all ages to declare war on these systemic, chronic and often deadly medical issues,” said First Lady Rinnita Thompson of Southern Missionary Baptist Church; and First Ladies Health Day co-chair in Los Angeles.
After the kickoff in Los Angeles, First Ladies Health Days are scheduled in Orange County, Calif., Chicago, and Gary, Ind. The First Ladies Health Initiative even extends across the globe via a partnership with the Bishop Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation’s “Take One, Give One” campaign. For every HIV test taken at a First Ladies Health Day location, an HIV testing kit will be donated to testing facilities in South Africa.
“Our stores are proudly located at the corner of happy and healthy, and what better place to connect with our customers than through the First Ladies Health Day which promotes happy families and healthy options,” said John Gremer, director of Community Relations, Walgreens.
Tracey Alston, executive director of the First Ladies Health Initiative, expressed the main goal of the program: “The First Ladies Health Initiative is a one-of-its-kind effort that positions the church as the nucleus for large- scale health and wellness outreach. Ultimately, we want to empower minority and low-income communities with the essential healthcare resources so they can take control of their health. It is crucial that these communities have access to health information and medical experts, as well as free health tests which can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars.”
Participating health partners and volunteers for First Ladies Health Day include: Walgreens pharmacists, AltaMed, the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Diabetes Association, CareMore, Cedars-Sinai, City of Hope, and Susan G. Komen®. For more information on the First Ladies Health Days or a full list of participating churches and their First Ladies, please visit: FirstLadiesHealth.com; or call 213-394-0844.
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 tuberculosis and related infections.
LOS ANGELES (March 17, 2015) – The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association have agreed to a three-year commitment to the Walgreens First Ladies Health Initiative to assist in improving the cardiovascular health of African Americans by employing a sophisticated outreach system that monitors the health of high-risk individuals through their churches.
The AHA/ASA EmPowered to Serve (ETS) Initiative will enable one or more individuals at a select church to serve as the organizations’ primary contact, assess the cardiovascular health of community members, develop an action plan for health improvement, and lead health-centric activities at the church to assist residents in reaching their health goals.
The announcement comes leading up to the Fourth Annual Walgreens First Ladies Health Day, which is scheduled to take place Sunday, April 12, in nearly 30 Los Angeles-area churches. The Health Day is aptly named for the First Ladies, or pastors’ wives, who simultaneously open their church doors to provide FREE tests for a number of chronic illnesses that plague African American and Hispanic communities.
Although the AHA has been instrumental in providing health tests and information on heart disease during previous First Ladies Health Days, the new agreement, which begins on the upcoming Health Day, will provide faith-based programming that will remain active throughout the year.
“Heart disease is the No. 1 killer among African Americans and one of the most preventable of all chronic illnesses. This partnership with the AHA and ASA will allow the First Ladies program to continue its outreach to monitor the health of congregants of participating churches in the hopes that one day we will see a major shift in these regrettable findings,” stated John Gremer, Walgreen’s director of community affairs and driving force behind the multi-city First Ladies Health program for the past several years.
Although each church will offer various medical tests during next month’s First Ladies Health Day based on the needs of their community members and availability of medical experts, targeted diseases also will include diabetes, HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, and more. A Walgreens pharmacist will be available at each church to provide blood pressure exams and information on medication.
Medical experts from the American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, City of Hope, Alta Med, Council of Black Nurses, Charles Drew University, Los Angeles County Department of Health and other organizations will also volunteer their time to provide the FREE tests during the Health Day, in addition to representatives from AHA and ASA. Plus, Susan G. Komen will offer vouchers for free mammograms at each church, and representatives from the Alzheimer’s Association will be on site at various locations with information on mental illness.
A complete list of churches participating in the Health Day on April 12 can be found here.
Contact: Denise Spencer
Los Angeles – For the first time ever in Los Angeles history, 30 churches of various denominations and sizes will open their doors to their congregations as well as community residents for free health screenings. The screenings and health specific seminars will take place on Sunday, May 20th from 8 am until 2 pm. On-site screenings will include HIV/AIDS, Blood Pressure, Hepatitis C, Depressions, Glucose, Cholesterol and information on Alzheimer’s diseases, CPR techniques and Free Mammogram Screenings (at select sites).. “With African Americans disproportionately dying of debilitating diseases because they lack life-saving information, including the knowledge of their own status, this is truly the most meaningful and rewarding program our firm has developed,” said Tracey Alston, President of Danielle Ashley Group (DAG). As the African American agency for Walgreens, DAG developed the concept of the First Ladies Health Initiative, a consortium of pastors’ wives and female ministers that are united for healthier communities.
“It is really a national sorority of first ladies ,” says Tracey Alston, who goes on to state, “As representatives of the Walgreens Company, we empower the First Ladies with the necessary tools and resources of the healthcare profession to create this substantive program that they can continue to build on year after year. This is the beginning of an annual event, and as it continues to grow, the passion and commitment becomes contagious. I am continually amazed by the number of health providers and workers that volunteer to be a part of the program.” Those organizations and individuals include Walgreens Pharmacists, HealthCare Partners, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, City of Hope,, Black AIDS Institute, the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Council of Black Nurses and more, who will be performing the screenings and conducting the seminars. Screening times are based on church schedules and may be held prior to or following church services.
John Gremer, Walgreens Director of Community Affairs, and the executives of Walgreens are very committed to this self-sustaining program. In fact John Gremer saw the vision and immediately agreed to support the initiative. “We knew this was a big idea,” said Gremer, “needless to say, we are all very pleased with the magnitude of this program’s growth.” The program kicked off in Chicago, in 2008 and it continues to expand to other cities. Besides recently establishing a presence in Los Angeles, plans are also underway for an Atlanta Initiative by the end of 2012, with a goal of having First Ladies Health Initiatives in the top 10 cities within five years. “It has been a pleasure to work with the First Ladies and to encourage their members and others to get screened for these various illnesses, many of which are preventable,” states Gremer. “Not only are the Health Day participants able to take advantage of free screenings, but the medical experts are also generous enough to provide immediate information on treatments and overall healthy living.”
Founding board members of the Los Angeles 2012 initiative are Mrs. Denise Hunter of First AME Church, Mrs. Evelyn Perkins of True Friendship MBC, Dr. Betty Price of Crenshaw Christian Center and Mrs. Debra Williams of McCoy Baptist Church. Debra Williams and Evelyn Perkins also serve as the 2012 co-chairpersons for the L.A. First Ladies Initiative.
Chicago – Dozens of churches representing individual congregations of up to 20,000 members in Chicago and nearby suburbs will simultaneously host health screenings on Sunday, September 25th, in an effort to tip the scales in favor of African Americans living healthier lives.
The First Ladies Health Day, named for the compassionate group of ambassadors who are also the wives of Chicago ministers, will offer a convenient opportunity for community members to get free, on-site screenings for various illnesses that are disproportionately high in African American communities.
Screenings will include HIV/AIDS, blood pressure, hepatitis C, depression, glucose, cholesterol and information on migraines and other illnesses. Health experts from Walgreens Pharmacies, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Chicago Department of Public Health, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Black Nurses Association and the American Diabetes Association will perform the tests.
In addition, Chicago Firefighters will be on-hand at several churches to demonstrate CPR (please see church list attached).
Jamell Meeks, the wife of the Rev. and State Sen. James T. Meeks of Salem Baptist Church, serves as chairwoman for the campaign.
Walgreens Director of Community Affairs John Gremer initiated the program in 2008 with the First Ladies Luncheon, during which nearly 200 ministers’ wives met with medical experts to discuss the high rate of HIV/AIDS among African Americans. The First Ladies Campaign expanded in 2010 to include the health day and several additional illnesses.
Gremer says the campaign has been an important and inspiring addition to his department from the beginning.
“It’s been my pleasure to work with the churches to encourage their members and others to get screened for these various illnesses, many of which are preventable,” states Gremer. “Not only are the health day participants able to take advantage of free screenings, but the medical experts are also generous enough to provide immediate information on treatments and overall healthy living.”
Gremer recently approved the First Ladies program extending to Los Angeles starting with the luncheon in October.
The wife of NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Cookie Johnson, spoke this summer at the 2011 Chicago luncheon about her life 20 years after her husband’s announcement that he had tested positive for HIV. She also will attend the Los Angeles luncheon as a keynote speaker.