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Ohio pastor orders male congregants to visit doctors

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS, Ohio — All males in the congregation at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church must go see a doctor. Pastor’s orders.

Pastor Keith Troy, stunned by the death of a 58-year-old church member a day after delivering Thanksgiving meals to the homeless, told every man in his congregation — estimated at 900 — to see a doctor within 30 days.

Roland K. Burks had died of complications from diabetes and high blood pressure. Troy delivered his message during a sermon in early December and said something good should come from Burks’ death.

“If you don’t have a doctor, we’ll find you one,” he told the congregation. “And if economics are an issue, we’ll help you. But one way or another, every man in this church will be checked out.”

Burks’ death was one of three to church members near year’s end. All were black men, and all apparently were caused by either preventable or treatable diseases.

Improving health is especially important in the black community, and New Salem is positioned to be a leader, Troy said.

Diabetes and undetected prostate cancer are particular problems for black men.

In Franklin County, the death rate attributed to diabetes among black men is three times higher than that among white men, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The rate for prostate cancer is 2.3 times higher.

Studies have indicated that black men live an average of 7.1 fewer years than other racial groups and have a disproportionately higher mortality rate in every leading cause of death.

During a Dec. 2 service, Troy called the church’s deacons forward to stand at the end of each row. Then he asked each man in church to write his name and phone number on a piece of paper. The deacons took the lists, and are now responsible for following up with those in their rows to make sure a doctor’s appointment has been made.

“Men don’t like to talk about their health, and men don’t like to go to doctors,” Troy said. “But now we’ve made ourselves accountable to one another. We’ve made men responsible for men.”

Dr. Augustus Parker, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Mount Carmel East, listened as his minister made the emotional plea.

“I thought it indicated to everyone there that the pastor was interested in more than just making sure you show up on Sunday and put money in the pot,” he said. “As a physician, I knew immediately this would make a difference for many men — just knowing that someone cared.”

Burks had been Jimmy Logan’s best friend, so it had already been a difficult service. Then came Troy’s announcement.

“For men, it’s a lot of, ‘I should, I could, I would, but I don’t,”’ said Logan, a 46-year-old bank employee from suburban Gahanna. “But we’re all servants, and we can’t do what we need to do in the community if we don’t have ourselves together.”

Logan saw his doctor at 7:30 a.m. one recent Friday. He had a bum knee drained but otherwise, everything was fine.

For that, he was grateful.

(Associated Press)