Rolling Out

Springfield health commissioner addresses mental health and heart disease

Springfield health commissioner addresses mental health and heart disease
Helen R. Caulton-Harris, Commissioner of the Division of Health and Human Services for the City of Springfield. (Photo credit: Rashad Milligan for rolling out)

SPRINGFIELD, MASS. – At #ProtectSpringfield’s A Community Day of Wellness, residents had the opportunity to participate in a day of activities with a chance to bring home free t-shirts, books and bottles of water.

Springfield Health commissioner Helen R. Caulton-Harris, stopped by rolling out to discuss the event and common health problems in the Black community.

You’re here today at the Wellness event, how was the event?

This has been an amazing event that is actually still going on. The amazing part is to have the young people who are so excited. There are many activities going on, but I’m particularly happy about the mental health piece that we have brought into this environment. COVID-19 really has stretched out emotional, physical and spiritual health. So to be able to be here and see all of those quadrants of health being addressed is really exciting and very important.

What is the significance of people getting out, interacting and exercising mentally and physically?

It is critical we’re able to be outside. After being in the house for two years, our young people really have a lot of pent-up energy. What we’re seeing today is that energy is being used in a very healthy way. There’s yoga, bike riding, mental health, volleyball, face painting, and so many activities young people can get involved with. It’s a safe environment, and that is critical for our young people across the city of Springfield, and certainly the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and our nation as well.

Focusing on the physical side, Kevin Samuels died of a reported heart attack at 56. What message does it send to people when they see someone young die of a heart attack?

Cardiovascular disease, particularly for individuals of color, is really something that we should pay attention to. The fact people are dying at early ages means there are potentially quadrants of their health they are not paying attention to. So I would say the message is to pay attention to your health. Your body will let you know when there is something going on that is not normal. It’s important to pay attention, contact a primary care physician and don’t ignore the warning signs. Cardiovascular disease and heart attacks are something, we know particularly in the African American community, we struggle with. Hearing those messages around individuals losing their lives in their 60s, 50s, even 40s, that’s young. So pay attention to your bodies, I think it’s the message that I would give.

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