Monday, June 20, 2016

Gada Dickerson - Doing All That She Can to Help Improve the Health and Well-being of Bronx Residents

As the Health and Wellness Ministry Chairperson for Thessalonia Worship Center in the Bronx, Gada Dickerson always had an interest in health; not just her health, but improving the health and well-being of others. Her mother and father worked in a hospital, so it seemed natural for Gada to pursue a job as a hospital nurse. She enrolled and graduated from a nursing program, but as fate would have it, her nursing career was not to be. After completing the nursing program a hiring freeze went into effect at New York City public hospitals, which quickly limited her options. As a result, she changed her career focus and, instead, pursued a health services administration degree.

When Gada began attending Bronx Health REACH meetings, she discovered that Bronx Health REACH offered various health programs at Bronx churches. In time, Thessalonia Worship Center joined Bronx Health REACH's Faith Based Outreach Initiative. This Initiative helps faith organizations – of all denominations – raise their congregations awareness of racial and ethnic health disparities; provide health programming around nutrition and fitness, and diabetes prevention and management. The first program launched at Thessalonia Worship Center was Fine, Fit and Fabulous. It was well received by the congregation with 20 church members participating in the program. Gada pointed out that the reason for the success was, “Our late pastor, Dr. Rev. Shellie Sampson, Jr. was a big supporter of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He viewed obesity as a daily struggle, and allowed us to use the banquet hall whenever we needed it for our Fine, Fit and Fabulous classes. Our current pastor, Reverend Malobe Sampson is also a big supporter."

Following on Fine, Fit and Fabulous, Thessalonia Worship Center implemented the culinary ministry which provided information on selecting, preparing, and serving healthy versions of favorite meals at church events. "Our church provided traditional fare such as macaroni and cheese, fried fish, fried chicken, and collard greens which are not the healthiest options. A Bronx Health REACH nutritionist spoke to the church kitchen staff that had been preparing the meals, and eventually there were changes made that included using less fat and salt, offering fruit and salad at the start of the buffet table, and reducing portion sizes," Gada noted.

As a lifelong South Bronx resident Gada sees many health challenges faced by those living in the community. “When I go grocery shopping and see other shoppers filling their shopping carts with unhealthy items such as frozen pizza and hot pockets, I wonder, where are the fruits and vegetables? If you eat fruits and vegetables as a child, you will continue eating them as an adult. People have to make health a priority in their life.”

For now, Gada is focused on improving the health of her fellow church members. “Our church is always doing a healthy program, and since I am on various email lists, I am able to get Thessalonia Worship Center involved in a variety of health programs. Currently our church is doing blood pressure readings every Sunday for church members.” Whether it be at her church, or a #Not62 – Campaign for A Healthy Bronx! Town Hall event, you can be certain that Gada is doing all that she can to help improve the health and well-being of her fellow Bronx residents.

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