02/25/08 — County Health Department hires new minority health coordinator

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County Health Department hires new minority health coordinator

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 25, 2008 1:45 PM

Rovonda Freeman, minority health coordinator with the Health Department, thinks if she does her job right, there will be a trickle-down effect -- and fewer people who need medical services.

"If we can get to as many people as possible about how to stay healthy, then I think that will be doing my job, getting the word out," she said.

While her grant-funded position officially started last month, she has worked with the Health Department for six years. So, she said, she already knows many of the issues facing the county's minority population

She has been a health educator in the schools and worked closely with many of the black churches in the community. Her affiliation also extends to such agencies as WATCH, Wayne County on Adolescent Pregnancy and the youth center on base.

In her new role, the overall focus is to help eliminate health disparities in the black and Hispanic populations, she said.

"Chronic disease -- heart disease, cancer, diabetes -- HIV/AIDS, infant mortality, the major things that affect African Americans and Hispanics more than other populations," she said, with obesity and hypertension also making the list.

Much of her efforts will be in outreach education, she said, developing programs and trying to increase awareness. Hopefully, she added, it will make a dent.

"We know that most of these problems, pretty much all of them, are here to stay, but if we can teach leaders that have more access to people, educate pastors, educate leaders, different civic organizations, then they can touch those 500, 600 people that they come in contact with," she said. "Hopefully, it will trickle down so that everybody gets the message."

Information can be empowering, she said, so she is seeking creative ways to get the word out. She has worked closely with the school system, she says, and hopes that will continue. She also assists churches, providing educational information to insert in bulletins or forming diet and nutrition support groups.

"One thing I would love to bring to the community is a minority health conference," she said. "To be able to bring all different people that work with minority health in different ways under one roof."

She also plans to partner with leaders from the Hispanic community and shore up services and information for that segment of the population, she said.

Ms. Freeman is from Wayne County, having graduated from Eastern Wayne High School. She obtained her bachelor's degree in health education and promotion from East Carolina University. Working at the Health Department previously, she took a break to work on her master's degree and returned in 2004.

At 31, she says she is excited about the new direction.

"I think I have done adolescent health pretty much my whole career," she said. "This is something new -- to use what I have learned in school and stretch what I know ... just to be home and get to start doing this, is exciting."