The First Ladies Health Initiative (FLHI) is proving to be a strong voice for wellness in Southern California. The faith-based outreach program, created by Executive Director Tracey Alston and sponsored by Walgreens, provided health screenings to more than 37,000 people last year.
The success of the effort can be traced to the leadership and involvement of the first ladies of several churches in Los Angeles, Inglewood, Pasadena and Orange County. For the past six years, the women have spearheaded the First Ladies Health Day at the churches, bringing in health professionals to perform a wide range of free screenings for local communities.
In preparation for the 2017 event, Alston and John Gremer, Walgreens director of community affairs, invited 200 first ladies to the annual luncheon on Nov. 19 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The multi-focused gathering served to express appreciation to first ladies, health providers and partners, recognize new participants, and educate attendees through a health symposium panel discussion on HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis C.
“God’s grace continues to embrace FLHI. With the unwavering commitment of our dynamic first ladies, Walgreens, healthcare partners and volunteers, to quote a popular phrase, ‘ain’t no stopping us now,’” said Alston.
“As Walgreens continues to confront health challenges in Los Angeles and Orange county, we count it a privilege to work alongside women who have the ear of their pastors and the hearts of their congregations,” noted Gremer.
The luncheon also featured “First Ladies Talk” with Dr. Betty Price of Crenshaw Christian Center, FLHI national chairperson; Evelyn Perkins of True Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and Rinnita Thompson of Southern St. Paul Church, L.A. co-chairpersons; and Juanita Edwards of Pasadena Community Christian Fellowship.
“Many people can’t afford to provide for their health so we have provided a way for them to get tested. It’s about helping people and getting involved in the community,” noted Price.
Other program participants were Aundrae Russell, KJLH program director and host of “Spread the Word” who served as emcee; the Rev. Dr. Mia Whitlock, Orange County FLHI chair; Florence Boyd of First AME – Los Angeles; and actress and health advocate Holly Robinson-Peete, who gave the keynote address.
“I think we take for granted how impactful and influential our first ladies are in the community. The work that they do to and the illnesses that are not being dealt with in our community are really key. I’m proud to be here to share and help this initiative go forward,” said Robinson-Peete.
The Walgreens-sponsored First Ladies Health Initiative is a consortium of more than 160 pastors’ wives from across the U.S. who work together to confront preventable, systemic illnesses — such as hepatitis, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and certain forms of cancer — with a significantly higher prevalence in African-American and Latino communities.
To learn more about how your church can participate in the First Ladies Health Day, visit firstladieshealth.com.