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NAACP Health Equity lunch-and-learn 11 a.m.-1 p.m. April 27
Features panel on heart disease, hypertension, diabetes; emcee researches role of ‘community health workers’

The Health Equity Committee of the Bulloch County Branch of the NAACP will host a community “lunch and learn” about health conditions disproportionately impacting minorities and all residents of rural Georgia – particularly heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes – next Saturday, April 27, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.  in the community building at Luetta Moore Park.

Health disparities and inequities in healthcare access and communication will be underlying concerns, especially since members of the faculty of the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University, involved in research and outreach, are key organizers. The event is entitled “Health isn’t a goal, it’s a way of living.” Lunch will be provided, but anyone who wishes to attend is asked to register through the QR code on the flier accompanying this article, or one of the email addresses provided further below.

“What we’re going to do is talk about some of these specific issues that impact minority and underserved populations, specifically here in Bulloch County and Statesboro,” said Bulloch NAACP Health Equity Committee Chair Tilicia Mayo-Gamble. “It is an event for the community, and we’re going to talk about  some of these top health conditions that impact our  area, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease or heart disease. We’re going to have a panel of individuals who will answer questions  and talk about their experiences from their expertise.”

Tilicia Mayo-Gamble
Tilicia Mayo-Gamble

Mayo-Gamble, Ph.D., MPH, has chaired the NAACP committee for two years and been a member of the JPH College of Public Health faculty for seven. An associate professor of community health, she is set to become an associate dean, heading the college’s Office for Public Health Practice and Research, effective July 1. An active researcher into how individuals with “lived experience” of chronic illness can assist other patients in their communities and a family caregiver in her own right, she is serving as host and master of ceremonies for the lunch and learn.

Another JPHCPH associate professor of community health, Stacy Smallwood, Ph.D., MPH, director of the college’s Office of Health Equity and Community Engagement, will be the panel moderator.

Panel members will include a nursing director and a nutritionist, as well as a third person from the College of Public Health.

“So we’ll have these medical perspectives but also a public health perspective on these chronic  conditions, and then we’re going to open it up for questions: What are some of the things that community members want  to know about managing their care if they do have these conditions,” Mayo-Gamble said.


The panelists

The nursing director scheduled to participate is Harry L. Baldwin, RN, BSN, director of dialysis at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah. The  nutritionist is Diella Tolbert. The College of Public Health representative will be  James Thomas, DrPH, MPH, senior lecturer in community health education and behavior.

In her role as NAACP Health Equity Committee chair, Mayo-Gamble distributed some statistics during February, which is Heart Health Month, on conditions she notes have the “highest incidence rates within the state of Georgia” and among minorities in the state. For example, the percentage of Georgia adults who have been told by a health professional that they have high blood pressure is 36.6%, and the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease in Georgia each year exceeds 22,000, accounting for about one of every three deaths in the state. Her sources included a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health rankings analysis and a Georgia Department of Public Health report, among others, all of which she cited in more detail.

In her own recent “community engaged” or “patient engaged” research, Mayo-Gamble is working with individuals with a much less common, but lifelong and sometimes debilitating chronic blood disorder, sickle cell disease, and “community health workers.” Her pilot study tracks about 20 people living with sickle cell disease in the area of Albany and Sylvester, in southwestern Georgia, whose specialist health care provider, a hematologist, is based four hours away in Augusta.


Community health workers

For her study, Mayo-Gamble trains laypeople, in fact individuals who also have sickle cell disease themselves, to serve as “community health workers,” who check in on patients with monthly calls.

The “community health worker model” of having people with lived experience serve as monitors or mentors, “has been very well documented and evidenced” through peer-reviewed studies in regard to other chronic conditions, such as diabetes, she said. As principal investigator on her pilot study, she is testing how it works with sickle cell disease, for which pain management is a central concern, and says that community health workers may be able to answer questions a doctor or nurse sometimes cannot, such as about the use of home remedies for symptoms.

“Sometimes other people with the condition, who’ve had it for several years, might be able to say, ‘Have you tried this?’ ‘Have you tried a warm compress?’ and so that’s why we say we want other individuals with a lived experience to answer those questions,” Mayo-Gamble said.

She has also become a liaison between some individuals in her study and their health care providers. For example, when she hears that someone has had a pain episode lasting a week or more when their next appointment with the doctor is a month or two away, she calls to get them an appointment at a “satellite” location in Albany with a nurse practitioner using a telemedicine connection to consult the doctor.

“For me it’s filling in that gap in care, because we know that if you have a chronic condition, there are lots of things that occur between visits with your specialty physician,” Mayo-Gamble said. “And so, instead of trying to  get  another appointment – especially if you live in a rural  area and you’re doing these satellite appointments – your doctor’s visit might  be two hours away if you live in Statesboro, four hours away if you live in Albany, and so to try to prevent them having to travel back and  forth, I provide the check-in with the health care provider. …”


Caregiver perspective

“It just so happens that my husband has sickle cell disease,” she said. “So when we talk about a lived personal experience in understanding communication with health care providers, I come from a community who’s a part of the lived experience, but for me specifically, I come from it from the perspective of a caregiver, and so I try to highlight … when I’m having conversations with individuals in the study or with all the community engagement work that I do, I also try to include the caregivers as well.”

For further information about the lunch and learn or to register to attend, email or
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