Saturday’s frigid downpour didn’t stop members of the APHA Community Health Planning and Policy Development Section from taking some good public health intentions and putting them into action.
“I just love it when people will take a risk on something that’s kinda out there,” said Tony DeLucia, a professor at East Tennessee State University, who led a very wet walking audit of a neighborhood near Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church in southeast D.C.
DeLucia was among nine public healthers who braved the wind and rain to learn how to assess sidewalks, streets and crosswalks for pedestrian access.
The crosswalk at Pennsylvania Avenue and 30th Street, for example, was well-marked and had a crossing signal that included an audible alert. Yet the group of nine barely made it across the intersection before the light changed. Most sidewalks were well-maintained, but some ended abruptly.
DeLucia plans to give audit results to community leaders in the area. In 2008, a study found that 42 percent of residents living in the area had high blood pressure — the highest rate in the District — and 40 percent are obese.
Turnout might have been light as far as local residents taking advantage of the health fair and healthy foods market inside the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, but the event brought people together for what looks like some lasting collaboration. In fact, medical students from D.C.'s Howard University plan to work with the local group Dreaming Out Loud in the future to offer free health screenings in the city’s under-served communities.
“I’m happy and impressed,” Howard University medical student Valerie Lerebours said about the 16 students who were on hand from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. to offer blood pressure and blood glucose checks, glaucoma screenings and body weight measurements. “It’s a great way to actually implement what we learn.”
Many Howard and Georgetown University medical students were volunteering side by side for the first time, something many of them hope to continue.
“Even though we’re in the same city, we don’t work together as much as we should,” said Brad Grant, associate dean of Howard University's College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Science.
Grant said he has reached out to some of his students to participate in a future community mural painting project and will be giving the keynote speech at tonight’s CHPPD Section Social, which is slated for 6:30-8:30 p.m. at 920 U St. ($10 donation suggested).
CHPPD Section Chair Amy Carroll-Scott said she’d like the community outreach activity to become a yearly event involving more APHA sections.
“Everybody’s doing great things in their communities, and then we come to the Annual Meeting and talk about it, but don’t do anything,” she said.
But the fact that scores of volunteers showed up yesterday to highlight healthy eating and exercise and offer screenings “shows we can mobilize and do it again," she said.
Above, Tony DeLucia, far left, leads fellow public health practitioners on a walking audit of a neighborhood in southeast Washington, D.C. Photo by Donya Currie