It’s a new year and for millions of Americans that means an opportunity to make a fresh start to live healthier lives than they did in the past. Every new year, community members seek out Aaron Perry, founder of Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association who does pioneering work to lessen racial health disparities in Madison. Perry encourages them all to come to his upcoming 4th Annual “We’re Off to a Good Start” Men’s Health Symposium at Fountain of Life Church on Madison’s south side.

“We want men to realize that when they set New Year’s resolutions that we want to empower them to keep them throughout the year,” Perry tells Madison365. “That’s what the ‘We’re Off to a Good Start’ Men’s Health Symposium is all about. But we then follow that up with our Black Men Run group and other ways to keep men motivated throughout the year.

“The work that we have been doing has been admirable, but the numbers show us that we have to do 10 times what we’ve been previously doing if we really want to make a dent in the racial health disparities,” he adds. “The average age of death for black men is way too low. We want to get that number up.”

Perry’s Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association (RLWA) is a Dane County organization started in 2007 that focuses on reducing health disparities. Last year, he launched the RLWA Men’s Health and Education Center inside JP Hair Design on Madison’s west side – a place that sees hundreds and hundreds of men, mostly African-American, come through a week. It’s been an innovative partnership for the promotion of good health for African-American men here in Madison. Men can get health checks and blood pressure screenings and talk to health professionals at the Men’s Health Education Center.

This is the fourth annual “We’re off to a Good Start” event put on by RLWA, who is the first-ever African-American diabetic Ironman triathlete. It’s a free, high-energy event filled with valuable preventative health education and awesome door prizes. The target audience is black men and boys ages 10-90.

WKOW’S David Johnson

WKOW Channel 27’s David Johnson will be the moderator for the event and Darryl Davidson, City of Milwaukee men’s health manager, will be one of the speakers.

“Darryl has been with us from the beginning. He’s been with us for every event. He does just a dynamic presentation on the state of health for black men – not just in Dane County, but statewide,” Perry says. “His presentation is just very real and he leaves men excited to do more, so we’re excited to have him back this year.”

Another talented speaker that will be featured at the event will be Lincoln Mondy, creator of Black Lives/Black Lungs, which is dedicated to investigating the successful targeting of the black community with menthol products at the hands of the tobacco industry and how it has affected black lives.

Darryl Davidson (left) and Aaron Perry

“He will provide a very open and honest conversation about the tobacco industry and marketing practices that continue to target the black community,” Perry says. “That’s going to be a great discussion. That will be followed by a panel discussion.

“We will be touching on what is going on with tobacco use in the black community but the real overall focus will be on preventative health education in all aspects including diabetes, heart disease, stroke,” Perry adds. “We will be talking on all of the health issues and how they are, in many cases, preventable. So that’s going to be our focus this year.”

The 4th annual Men’s Health Symposium will also feature the 2nd Annual Biggest Loser Contest.

“We have 15 slots that are available for our Biggest Loser Contest. So weight loss specialist Steve Heuer is making himself available and there will be 15 positions with his weight loss company,” Perry says. “He will take on 15 men to help us lose weight. He has a great weight loss program and he has given it to us free of charge. We’re really excited to be partnering with him.”

Perry’s work with lessening racial health disparities got some publicity when he was recently featured on Megan Kelly Today, a national show that airs on NBC in the morning. Megyn Kelly’s crew came to Madison to interview Perry and people from the Men’s Health Education Center along Jeff “JP” Patterson from JP’s Hair Design. Perry and Dr. Jasmine Zapata, who has been working for Perry’s organization for the last seven years, were also on the show live in New York City representing the Men’s Health and Education Center.

“It basically gave us a stamp of approval that what we are doing is making a difference,” Perry says. “What we are doing is real. Anytime you can bring real attention to the health disparities or even the social and health conditions of black men in this country, it’s a win-win. Not just for the city of Madison, but for the nation.

“The main thing about doing that interview is that we’ve been contacted by 10 different states and physicians from all over the country and they are interested in sitting down and talking about our model,” he adds. “So, we’re going to make those things happen. It all started in little ole Madison, Wisconsin. What we’re doing here and now is on the national stage.”

The 4th Annual We’re Of to a Good Start Men’s Health Symposium will be a chance to empower men to keep their New Years Resolutions and to achieve their health-related goals. Lunch will be provided at the event, and Perry says that attendees should wear comfortable shoes.

“We have men in the community that are already doing what they need to do to give their lives longevity,” Perry says. “For men that may be struggling who might need a little pep talk and could use the company of getting out and walking or learning about something or being inspired … this will be a great event. Those are the boys and the men that we want to come out.

“We also want the wives and the girlfriends to see this and to encourage their partner or their husband to come out and participate in that,” Perry adds. “At the end of the day, we need to have our health. And when we are in poor health, it affects the entire family. I really encourage people to come out and to participate and to have a voice in this.”

For more information about the 4th Annual “We’re Off to a Good Start” Men’s Health Symposium at Fountain of Life Church Feb. 3, click here.

Written by David Dahmer

David Dahmer

A. David Dahmer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Madison365.