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Outreach efforts look to produce healthier outcomes

Erie County is not a particularly healthy county, with issues across the board. Those problems can be even worse for certain segments of the community, particularly people of color, and many of them are reluctant to come forward and seek health care.

Community Health Center of Buffalo has as its focus several zip codes with high levels of poverty, among its 21,000 patients with a wider range of incomes from its base in North Buffalo and satellite locations in Erie and Niagara counties.

Outreach and Marketing Director Karla Thomas cites one example of segment health issues, the highest mortality rate in New York for African American women with breast cancer.

"We stepped up our breast cancer campaign and are partnering with organizations like the Witness Project and Windsong to help identify women, age 40 and over, who may have a family history of breast cancer to get them in for preventative screening," Thomas said.

The outreach efforts are also looking for patients with high blood pressure and diabetes. Staff members go out with an LPN or RN to test blood pressure and blood sugar levels on location. Both health issues are scourges in poor communities.

Thomas says outreach also focuses on diet.
"It's easy enough to tell someone, instead of using pork seasoning in your greens, use turkey. That's going to change things. It's going to take a healthy meal that we've been destroying with pork and turn it into something that's healthy," she said.

Thomas says that outreach is often with women who prepare the home meals and work with them on healthy meals for their families, to ease widespread issues like childhood obesity.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.