Walgreen’s First Ladies Health Initiative Marks Expansion

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“It’s been a tremendous success–all these churches simultaneously uniting to create healthier communities,” remarks Tracey Alston, president of the Danielle Ashley Group and founder of the First Ladies Health Initiative, referring to her campaign to eradicate diseases such as HIV that disproportionately affect the African-American community.

Nearly 10,000 were screened for everything from High Blood pressure to HIV as the Walgreens First Ladies Health Screening Day was held in 30 L.A. churches in May, including Brookins Community AME, Crenshaw Christian Center, First AME Church, Judson Baptist Church, McCoy Baptist Church, and True Friendship MBC. Health care professionals and the faith ministry will unite to combat and prevent diseases that disproportionately affect African Americans.

So successful has the initiative been in Los Angeles and Chicago, that Walgreens is now expanding into Atlanta with the first of two events—a luncheon to introduce the campaign to first ladies—is set for this fall.

The First Ladies Health Initiative, currently in its third year, is a campaign sponsored by Walgreens to educate African Americans about preventive illnesses that disproportionately affect Black communities, particularly HIV/AIDS. Various screenings include blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, HIV/AIDS, as well as the dissemination of information for such illnesses as migraines and obesity.

“I’m especially concerned about our senior population,” said Evelyn Perkins, First Lady of True Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and Chairperson of the Los Angeles First Ladies Health Initiative.  “The significance of having a Walgreens pharmacist to help sort out increasingly confusing medications cannot be overstated.  With the aging of our community, this personal touch in the neighborhood is imperative to helping our people live longer lives. This is why I was thrilled that the Initiative chose to add Los Angeles to its network of First Ladies this year.”

“It all started eleven years ago when the Danielle Ashley Group partnered with Walgreens and we found that HIV among African-Americans was trending high. The Illinois Department of health broke down HIV statistics by ethnicity and it became evident that I had to do something,” explains Alston. Together, the Danielle Ashley Group and Walgreens, initiated an HIV/AIDS Task Force in 2008 which culminated in the Walgreens First Ladies Health Day. Later that year, the pilot program launched in Chicago with over 150 First Ladies participating. Since then, the First Ladies Health Initiative was launched in Los Angeles just last year and will continue to expand its programs to reach other major urban centers.

Last year, more than 30 churches participated in the Chicago Health Day, hosting simultaneous health screenings in each of the concentrated medical areas providing health screenings for over 5,000 individuals, including non-church members.

Chicago’s 3rd Annual First Ladies Health Day is set for September 23 at more than 40 churches around the Metropolitan Chicago area.

“I’d like to test over 10,000 people—that would be success–, because then we know we could shoot for 15,000 next year—and there will be a next year!” promises Alston.

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