NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A recent study shows Tennessee faces a serious health crisis that stems mostly from unhealthy choices.
For the last 20 years, the state has ranked among the worst in the nation when it comes to health outcomes, according to the report. Obesity, HIV, and poor health management, or the lack of it, are the biggest issues.
Those problems and others were addressed April 22 at Tennessee State University’s Community Health and Wellness Fair in Kean Hall on the main campus. TSU partnered with Vanderbilt University Medial Center and the DP Thomas Foundation for Obesity for the outreach event that was free and open to the public.
More than 30 vendors with some connection to health care and wellness participated in the one-day event.
“This is really an opportunity for TSU to serve out its mission statement in helping to serve the community,” said Kelli Sharpe, Assist Vice President for Public Relations and Communications at TSU. “It is also an opportunity for the community to know that we do have professional health education and services on campus, not just for students and faculty, but for the community as well.”
According to the latest data from the Tennessee Department of Health, nearly 7,000 adults accessed Davidson County emergency rooms in 2014 for relief of dental conditions.
Gary-Lee A. Lewis, head of TSU’s Dental Hygiene Department, said TSU’s clinic averages about 600 patients a year and he hopes that number will increase “with the linkages that we make with the community.”
“We’re well equipped to manage the needs of the community,” Lewis said.
The fair provided information on weight loss management, nutrition, and HIV, as well as fitness demonstrations and other health screenings, including hypertension, glucose, and cholesterol. The dental hygiene component included oral examinations, dental cleanings, and oral health education.
Students, faculty and staff of TSU’s Student Health Services, the Department of Dental Hygiene, and the School of Nursing played a major role in the fair.
Vic Sorrell, Community Engagement Coordinator of the Vanderbilt Medical Center HIV Vaccine Program, said the fair was very timely and needed.
“Because HIV incidence is on the rise in communities with limited access to quality healthcare, our program’s message and mission is certainly in alignment with the goals and values of this event and its organizers,” Sorrell said.
The DP Thomas Foundation is a longtime promoter of healthy living as a way to combat obesity and its negative effect on society. Experts from the foundation emphasized ways to help citizens achieve and maintain a balanced lifestyle.
“We are extremely excited about this opportunity to serve the Nashville community,” said Lalita Hodge, coordinator of the DP Thomas Foundation. “We at the DP Thomas Foundation truly believe that a healthy community is a wealthy community. Providing information and combining our community resources is the best way to achieve this goal.”
TSU students, from nursing, dental hygiene to professional education, were excited about participating in the fair and giving back to the community.
Starr Winbush, a freshman Nursing major, looked forward to the hands-on help she and her fellow students provided.
“Going into the nursing field, I think it is very important to be able to talk to people and communicate with them about their needs,” Winbush said. “Helping people, that’s the main part.”
Chelsea Nash, ajunior Biology major, added: “Many people do not have insurance, and for them this may be the only way they can get the care they need. So I am really proud to see my school reaching out to the community.”
Abraham Osareme Simmons, a senior Dental Hygiene major, said community service was part of the reason why he entered the program.
“I like to touch lives that are in need; that is very important to me,” said Simmons, who graduates in May. “That’s what inspired me to matriculate to the dental hygiene program. It is rewarding to see people feel good about themselves because of what you have done to make their lives better.”
Dr. Winda Wilbert, interim executive director of the TSU School of Nursing, said “community service is an expectation for our students.”
“That’s in fact one of the core requirements for our baccalaureate program,” Wilbert said. “So when we are out there with them, it’s not just a matter of field experience, they are fulfilling their requirements.”
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About Tennessee State University
With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.