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The message behind the Rhythm Walk and Health Fair

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids African American Health Institute (GRAAHI) held its 20th Anniversary Rhythm Walk and Health Fair Saturday at Martin Luther King Park.

Community members joined city leaders, business owners, organizations and healthcare systems to tackle health disparities in the Grand Rapids community.

“It’s based upon all the other conditions that impact our communities, impact the health of our communities, including housing, low-income, food, education, you know, all these things are major contributors of health disparities and so we want to build awareness around that and that’s why our organization exists and that’s why our organization was founded in 2002,” Vanessa Greene, CEO of GRAAHI, told FOX 17 Saturday.

Khan Nedd, one of the founders of GRAAHI, explained how COVID-19 highlighted the many issues GRAAHI has been working the last 20 years to combat.

“For many years we have lagged behind in outcomes for a variety of reasons, but in particular, I think with the pandemic that has just, being a part of, you know, the last two years, it has certainly brought to the surface some of these issues and I think we have seen a lot of partnership and others broadly joining into this effort and putting a spotlight on this issue and trying to look at ways of how we can develop both strategies, policies and certainly, engage our community to be a real participant in whatever that future can look like,” Nedd added.

Saturday’s event included much more than the walk for awareness.

Event organizers say there were more than 30 resource tables available from a variety of places, including Spectrum Health, Trinity Health St. Mary’s, Cherry Health, University of Michigan Health-West, Cure the Violence and the Grand Rapids African American Nurses Association.

“We have Spectrum Health mammogram unit here. We have a vaccination clinic, as well as blood pressure checks that’s being done by students from grand valley state university as well as grand rapids African American nurses association and so in addition to the walk, we also are providing some clinic services for the community here today as well, so we’re really excited about the support,” Greene explained.

Organizers hope this yearly event will spark life-changing results for not only community members, but also for the healthcare system as a whole.

“We’re hoping to just get more awareness and get people to get involved and we’re also hoping that the systems see the work of the and Grand Rapids African American community and see like the disparities and the needs within the community and provide more resources and support so that we can continue to grow in our impact to improve health outcomes,” Greene said.

“They’re engaging in stuff that doesn’t just promote health but make it a muscle memory of how they think about health. It’s the equivalent to all the other things that they’re doing in our lives and how they can prosper and do well, so we are pretty excited about having that here,” Nedd added.

GRAAHI also gave away free backpacks and school supplies at Saturday’s event.

For more information about the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, click here.

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