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Event to focus on health gaps

A conference in Suffolk on Saturday will focus on health disparities in rural black communities and will feature a Suffolk native renowned in the medical field.

“The Grand Gathering 2: Health Disparities in Rural Communities of Color” will feature Dr. L.D. Britt, a surgeon, professor and department chairman at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

“I think this is one of the greatest challenges facing the country, is health care disparities,” Britt said this week. “We spend the most money in health care, but we still have the most widening disparity, and it’s getting worse.”

The free event will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at King’s Fork Middle School, 350 Kings Fork Road. Registration and continental breakfast will be from 8 to 8:45 a.m.

The event is the work of many local people, including Barbara Wiggins, of Providential Credit Care Management Inc. and Keepers of the Homefront, and Seneca Bock, co-chair of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Health Equity Council.

Wiggins said she has been helping to educate her rural neighbors on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and enroll people in a plan.

“You have to have the ability to go to the doctor when you get sick,” she said. “It’s the rural community that suffers, because we don’t have certain things in place.”

She is looking forward to Saturday, because many organizations that have been working toward similar goals will be able to work together.

“We’ve got to do a little bit better sharing information,” she said.

Bock said she hopes the event results in a “common statement that focuses on or allows for a commitment to focus on rural health and the unique challenges faced within rural communities of color,” she said.

“It’s vitally important that we come together to understand some of the fundamental social determinants that may have a direct impact on these health disparities,” she added.

Bock said she hopes people directly affected by health disparities come to the event so they can share their experiences.

Britt said he has felt passionately about health care disparities in the black community since he was a child growing up in Suffolk.

“When I was a little boy going to the doctor, it took hours,” he said. “You had to pack a lunch and dinner, because we didn’t have that many doctors for our community.”

Britt said America should not have the health care outcomes it does for the amount of money it spends.

“We should have a better infant mortality rate and a better life expectancy and all that, and we’re not getting that,” he said. “Those disparities are real. This is a conference to address some of those concerns, and my talk will reflect that.”

In addition to Britt’s talk, the event will feature workshop sessions on the Affordable Care Act and a pastor’s roundtable. A free lunch will be served, and the event will end with a gospel concert. Dr. Fredrica Books-Davis and Dr. Glen Dale will be featured during lunch, and Praize Dayz will be featured during the gospel concert.

A flatscreen television will be among many giveaways during the event.

Partnering organizations include the Kare-A-Van, Office of Minority Health, National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities, Mid-Atlantic Regional Health Equity Council, Obici Healthcare Foundation, Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Nansemond-Suffolk branch of the NAACP, Norfolk State University’s Health Disparities Center, Suffolk Ministerial Alliance and more.

Call 469-4053 for more information.