Four out of every five calls to the Toledo Fire & Rescue Department are for emergency medical services, not fires. And the majority of those EMS calls come from low-income neighborhoods in central Toledo, where residents often have limited access to healthcare services.
That’s why Toledo Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Brian Byrd established the African American Male Wellness Walk in Toledo to promote the importance of exercise and getting routine checkups to prevent illnesses. African American men, who typically do not seek healthcare for themselves, are encouraged to visit a doctor annually and to “know their numbers” – results for body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol, prostate cancer and other health screenings done for free at the annual event.
“Healthy men make healthy families,” Chief Byrd said, “and healthy families make a healthy community.”
More than 600 screenings were done by paramedics and other local health professionals at Toledo’s third annual African American Male Wellness Walk (AAMWW), which was held on Saturday, August 15 at the African American Legacy Project at the corner of Dorr Street and Collingwood Avenue.
Deputy Chief Byrd has received both national and local acclaim for his work with the AAMWW, which was founded 11 years by John Gregory in Columbus and is supported by the National Center for Urban Solutions. The project is the largest minority health effort of its kind in Ohio.
This year, Deputy Chief Byrd was named the AAMWW’s national chairman, and he has helped other cities nationwide launch events. Locally, he was recognized as a 2015 Healthcare Hero for his efforts to prevent chronic disease.
Toledo Fire & Rescue has other projects to help residents be healthy. For example, EMS personnel distribute information about safe sleep practices and prescription drop offs, as well as smoke detectors, said Deputy Chief Byrd, who oversees Emergency Medical Services and Communications.
“We access 40,000 houses a year, and we do outreach to EMS patients because treating and transporting them is a lot of what we do,” Deputy Chief Byrd said. “EMS departments in urban cities like Toledo are in an ideal position to help residents get preventive healthcare.”