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A Series On Health Equity: The Black Church and HBCUs

#1: Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders Among African-Americans

A new minority health initiative sponsored by  Providential Credit Care Management, Inc./KareVan aims to educate, inform and impact health disparities among African Americans in the Hampton Roads area. It is in partnership with  Norfolk State University Center of Excellence for Minority Health Disparities, Social Innovators Design Group, and the New Journal and Guide.

On Saturday, April 20, Dr. Steve Owens, Senior Vice President, Programs and Services, Epilepsy Foundation, will be the guest speaker at the NSU Center of Excellence where he will address the topic of epilepsy.

The program is free and open to the public and will feature health policy experts and advocates as presenters.

The event is 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with registration and a continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m. The Center is located in the Nursing Education Building on the NSU campus.

Following is an interview with Dr. Cynthia Burwell, who heads the NSU Center of Excellence.

Q1: Dr. Burwell, please tell us about the Center of Excellence at Norfolk State University? And what and how does it relate to the importance of health equity?

A1: The Center of Excellence for Minority Health Disparities was developed five years ago as one of Norfolk State University’s strategic initiatives in its Six Year Strategic Plan to help promote health equity and eliminate health disparities. Using the Community-Based Participation Research model, this work includes collaborative research and programming with various community-based health organizations across Hampton Roads and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In support of The Center’s commitment to reducing health disparities in Hampton Roads and surrounding areas through research, service, and education, five primary strategic goals have been created. These goals focus on increasing The Center’s infrastructure and capacity to conduct research, engage communities, collaborate with key partners, and provide educational opportunities to communities of underserved, underrepresented, and minority populations. The Center is important to providing educational opportunities in order to help reduce health disparities.

Q2: What is the significance of our HBCU in the furtherance of improved Black Health?


A2: It is significant that HBCUs continue to provide the leadership needed in training students to become future healthcare providers. We know that there will be a shortage of minority healthcare professionals in the future and we need to be in the forefront in helping students become the next generation of healthcare professionals to help meet the needs of the community.

Q3: So what about epilepsy and seizure disorders that relate to overall health of African Americans, and why should we all gather at our “Communityveristy” NSU  next Saturday morning, April 20? And please tell us about your involvement with Healthy Churches 2020.

A3: According to the literature many social factors have been identified as key drivers of epilepsy care, outcomes, and disparities, but there is a limited understanding of what these factors are and how they translate into disparities.

Key social determinants of health in epilepsy include socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, age, and gender. For example, low socioeconomic status and minority status have been associated with a higher risk of epilepsy, more hospitalizations and emergency room visits (versus neurology services), and a lower rate of epilepsy surgery.

Such differences in care/treatment and outcomes translate into health disparities, many of which are considered unjust (inequitable) and modifiable through social action.

It’s important that we gather people from the community together to discuss these issues and educate members of the community about epilepsy.

The Center has been involved with the Healthy Churches 2020 conference through the establishment of the Health Churches Coalition of Hampton Roads. This has provided us with the opportunity to educate health ministry leaders about health issues that need to be improved in our community.

Q4: Dr. Steve Owens is the keynote speaker in the morning. Why are you so excited about having our esteemed brother and expert to be with us?

A4: Dr. Steve Owens is the Senior Vice President of Programs and Services with the Epilepsy Foundation, and he is going to be our keynote speaker at the “Faith and Fit. We are excited about him coming to help increase our knowledge about epilepsy, population health and health disparities.

Q5: How and why are community leaders and advocates like Sis. Barbara Wiggins so important in the work we do as Black health equity advocates so important?


A5: We are excited to have Sis. Barbara Wiggins on that same program so that she can share with us information about the valuable resources she and her colleagues can provide for the homeless in our community.

This project is made possible in part by grant provided by the Epilepsy Foundation.

Please join on us for a prayer service and fellowship at Norfolk State University on April 20th at 9 a.m. We will come together to pray for the community, the sick and shut in, and for those who are living with various health challenges, including seizure disorders. Come and get the love, support and care you desire. Free and open to the community members.

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