Tavis Smiley is saving lives. His “Road to Health” Expo and Tour, which hits Los Angeles this weekend helping communities of color develop healthier lifestyles, has made a big difference in cities all across the country. The importance of the free expo can’t be underscored enough when you hear the stories from the road.
“There hasn’t been one single event where someone wasn’t rushed to the hospital,” Smiley told the Los Angeles Sentinel this week. “At every expo, people have left the building going to the hospital, they discovered their blood pressure was way too high or something else was discovered. It’s sad to see, but on the one hand we could be saving somebody’s life that very day.”
Smiley feels great about the impact the health seminars are having, but knows there’s much more work to be done. His biggest issue this campaign: eliminating childhood obesity. “At the center of this is parental involvement...we’re trying to help parents understand if you really love your child, you won’t help them dig a grave with his or her folk or spoon,” he adds. “When these kids get 30 or 35, they’re going to have so many health problems from being overweight for so many years.”
Smiley’s answer: Making the Road to Health tour more family friendly. For years, he has preached, information is power. On Friday and Saturday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Smiley is bringing the information upfront and center and he’s bringing in the health and fitness experts to help.
The Road to Health tour, sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, is a two-day, multi-city health, fitness, and wellness expo featuring local and national celebrities, seminars for youth, men and women, dance and nutrition demonstrations, medical screenings, CPR certification training and a blood drive, cardio zone for kids, and a 1/4 mile walk-a-thon.
Smiley will participate in the walk-a-thon inside the expo on Friday, March 30 at 9:00am with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Superintendent David Brewer and 6500 students. Nutritionists, fitness experts and health conscious celebrities will share their knowledge on how they make healthier life style choices every day.
The first day of the expo is aimed at youth, ages 11-15, and will feature a variety of fitness demonstrations, workshops on meal and snack selection, seminars to build self-esteem, and activities designed to show how exercise can be fun. The activities will include a kids’ cardio zone featuring rock climbing, tennis, golf, urban playground activities, exercise video games, and a live paddling demonstrations with Kayaks 4 Kidz.
The second day focuses on family health and fitness and is targeted to African American and Hispanic adults, ages 18-65. Featured seminar topics include HIV/AIDS, diabetes, exercise, diet and nutrition, senior health, and prenatal care.
Fitness expert Donna Richardson Joyner, boxer Laila Ali, Latin singing sensations Brown Boy, Rigo Luna, MC Magic and health success story and talk show host Mother Love will perform and lead walk-a-thons on Saturday.
Honorary co-chair Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke has sponsored the resolution to declare Road to Health Day in Los Angeles, Friday, March 30, 2007. Road to Health is presented by Kaiser Permanente and supported by national partnerships with the American Red Cross, Department of Minority Health, Baltimore City Health Fair, Kellogg Foundation, and AstraZeneca. In each city, the “Eliminating Childhood Obesity” symposiums are sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“Kaiser Permanente is excited to join Tavis Smiley on this Road to Health, because we are working in the community to make significant and lasting changes where we live, work, learn and play,” said Diana Bonta, Ph.D, RN, and vice president for public affairs of Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California region. “Kaiser Permanente has committed $18.5 million to a five-year plan to support community groups in California that are helping people improve their health through healthy eating and active living. This weekend’s Road to Health is just one terrific example.”
“This tour was created for communities of color to address health from a cultural perspective and to show that simple changes in diet and lifestyle can lead to a healthier life,” said Smiley. “People often think an intervention has to be a new drug or something really high-tech and expensive in order to be powerful. They often have a hard time believing that the simple choices that we make in our lives every day-what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke, and how much we exercise-—can make such a powerful difference in our health, our well-being, and even our survival. “
The Road to Health Expo will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center on March 30, 8:30am-3:00pm and Saturday, March 31, 10am-5pm.