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NIH Hosts Health Symposium at BIG National Training Conference

By Blondell Peterson
September 2005

Edward Treadwell and Marian Johnson-Thompson
Edward Treadwell, professor of medicine at East Carolina University, answers questions about lupus. Marian Johnson-Thompson moderates the discussion. (Photo by Veronica Godfrey)

More than 5,000 federal employees attended the 27th Annual Blacks In Government National Conference in Orlando, Fla. Aug. 1-5. A highlight of the week-long conference was the Health Symposium on Aug. 3 sponsored by the NIH National Center on Minority Health and Disparities. The theme was "The Health Status of the African American Community.

Marian Johnson-Thompson, director of Education and Biomedical Research Development, was the moderator for the first panel, "The Impact of the Environment on Human Health." Topics for discussion were asthma, neurodegenerative diseases, breast cancer, lupus and obesity. Kay Johnson, NIH Black Employment Program Manager, was the moderator for the second panel, "Health Disparities in the African American Community."

Annette Rice, BIG past president, said attendees asked if stem cells would ever be used for treatment of Parkinson and Alzheimer's disease. The response from the panel was that it is not legal.

The following topics were discussed, and the following tips offered by panelists:

  • Diabetes. Type 1 requires medication, while Type 2 can be controlled with diet. People with both types should be under a doctor's care. Factors that influence diabetes are genetic but lifestyle is the primary factor. Blood sugar should be checked regularly.
  • Lupus. There are several diseases that may surface prior to being diagnosed with Lupus. They include: Hepatitis C, Celiac, Hemochromatosis, Aneurysm, Lyme disease, Hypothyroidism, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Clamydia and Sleep Apnea.
  • Obesity. Parents should get involved with school programs and boards, monitor food children are eating at home and at school and people should be aware of and measure body fat and start exercising. They should also check body mass index

Other questions pertained to how to get treatment on a fixed income or with no income. Rice said experts on the panel cited instances where they personally referred patients in order for them to be given treatment by a physician. The general consensus was that we have a health care system that needs fixing.

Johnson-Thompson said participants appeared to find the event extremely informative because they asked many questions relative to their own health and the health of their family members and friends. They said most of these questions were not answered by their health care providers, or the answers provided were not understandable. "This panel of experts did a superb job in answering questions and clarifying issues," Johnson-Thompson said. "It was clear, in the case of NIH employees, that though they worked in an environment where important public health information is developed, this information is not available to the average employee."

A third panel's topic was "U.S.-Mexico Border Health Initiatives."

Kimberly Peterson, BIG president said the conference was well attended. "The BIG conference offered over 100 career-enhancing workshops, and all the military branches held day-long forums. It is a perfect forum for new health initiatives," she said.

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