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Portland Organization Transforms Way Black Men Approach Their Health Using Website

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By Brian Stimson, Special to the NNPA from The Skanner Group –

The new site – www.ourhealthalliance.org – provides a way for people to access information about diseases and health concerns and provides a comprehensive listing of health clinics and community groups in the Portland Metropolitan area. While the site focuses on health issues more likely to affect men, it also includes a lot of information useful to the entire family.

Sponsored by the Men’s Health Project, in a partnership with PSU’s Center for Healthy Inclusive Parenting, the website was borne out of a conversation between Jeffrey Showell and Damon Isiah Turner. After a meeting about a different grant opportunity, a conversation continued into the parking garage about a much-needed community service. The men wanted to find a way for health practitioners to communicate with each other and provide an online community gathering space for Africans and African Americans to find culturally specific health information. “Our hope is that there will be synergy created for coalition building, refining ideas, things that wouldn’t happen, although there are a lot of things going on in Portland around health for African American and African communities, a lot of times people just aren’t talking to each other and they just don’t know what other organizations are doing,” Showell said. “We’re going to try and break down the barriers.”

Turner says that easily accessible medical facts are helpful for a population plagued by a higher incidence of many preventable diseases. “You may have heard of “the Sugar” growing up,” he said. “But they didn’t necessarily know the implications of Diabetes.”

Designed and hosted by local web company WolfPk, the site is funded with a grant from the state of Oregon’s Office of Multicultural Health and Services. Although the sites designers are not medical professionals, the information on the site is provided by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

They say the site is limited only by their imagination and the site’s current crop of offerings is by no means the last. Turner and Showell say they hope to soon include information about preparing healthy foods, perhaps including video instructions and even information relating to small subsets of the African immigrant population.

“This is definitely a starting point,” he said. “This is where we wanted to have it; it’s going to be evolving. It’s not in any way stagnant.” One of their main missions with the website is to reach out to Portland’s community of African immigrants. “We would be adding to this list (of health concerns on the website) based on what we get back from specific African communities,” Turner said.

The project is currently meeting with a variety of different community organizations and leaders to try and determine how the site can better deliver needed information into the community. There are some that they hope to hear from. “The faith-based organizations have been a tough nut to crack,” says Showell. “Some of them have active or growing health ministries, for whatever reason, they haven’t jumped over those barriers.”

Contact Turner at damon@know-agenda.com and Showell at showell@easystreet.net to give them your ideas.

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