Contact:Michael Valentino


Inspirational music raises awareness of number one killer of African Americans

Over 700 people packed the brand new Long Branch Middle School Auditorium for the first Meridian Health "Heart and Soul GospelFest." Hosted by Meridian Health, American Heart Association, and the NAACP, the Gospelfest combined a night of inspirational gospel performances while raising awareness of heart disease and stroke in the African American community in recognition of Black History Month and American Heart Month.

"The need to raise healthy heart awareness among the African-American community is critical," says Charles Francis, M.D., director of Cardiovascular Research at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, a member of Meridian Health. "Every person needs to be aware of their health risks, but the death rate from heart disease for African Americans is astonishing. Raising this awareness through such an inspirational night to a highly influential audience will help us spread the word throughout the community."

Heart disease and stroke are among the number one killers in the United States. However, while everyone may be at risk, African-Americans are under the greatest threat. According to the American Heart Association:
. Heart disease and stroke are the Number 1 and Number 3 killers of blacks.
. Heart and blood vessel diseases (cardiovascular diseases) claim the lives of over 104,000 blacks every year.
. These diseases account for 33 percent of all deaths among blacks in the United States.

Dr. Francis provided important facts and practical tips on heart disease prevention with fellow physicians, David Kountz, M.D., senior vice president of Medical and Academic Affairs at Jersey Shore and Brian Roper, M.D., family practice physician affiliated with Jersey Shore.

Together with the important health education, the many gospel performances were the highlight of the evening. Groups included the Ed Ray Singers from the Long Branch Public Schools, the Mass Choir from the Second Baptist Church in Long Branch, Macedonia Baptist Church in Neptune, Agape Love Singers from the MacLaughlin Pentecostal Faith Church in Long Branch; and the New Direction Choir from the Salvation Army in Trenton. Additional performances included soloist Alisha Northington from the Calvary Baptist Church in Red Bank and a liturgical dance by Sarita Guzman of Aberdeen.

As the region's leading provider of heart services, Meridian was a proud host of the first time event. Attendees were also able to visit educational booths, speak with clinicians, and learn more about Meridian's many heart and stroke services, including Jersey Shore's top rated cardiac surgery program, and the comprehensive cardiology, interventional cardiology, cardiac diagnostics, and cardiac rehabilitation services at Jersey Shore, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, and Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank.