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The Mother of all Health Fairs

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Art, jazz, food and free screenings for women are all part of the Stronger Together Weekend

I love advocating for women's health. It's my calling, and it's my job. As the director of the Duke Women's Health Initiative, I get to share my passion with women all across the region and beyond. Being affiliated with Duke Medicine -- a world leader in healthcare -- means my message gets heard and taken ... well, to heart.

I survived a bypass when I was 42, so I know the unique challenges of women living with heart disease. But heart disease isn't my only cause. I'm interested in anything that impacts women's health. And I want to raise awareness of the importance of gender-based research and treatment.

My team and I are putting together an event on May 3 and 4 that will be unlike anything this region has ever seen. If the term "health fair" puts you to sleep, I invite you to attend one of the events we're organizing at the Durham Convention Center to see how entertaining a health fair can be. My dream is this regional event grows into a national and annual event drawing people from all around the country.

We'll kick off the weekend with a forum for healthcare providers on Friday, May 3 called Stronger Together: Fighting Disparities and the Leading Causes of Death in Women.

I believe we learn best (and retain more) when we use both sides of our brain. So, we're harnessing the power of creative energy to reach every one of your senses. Music, food, art, education and health screenings will all be part of a weekend we expect to be a powerful motivator for change.

On Friday, May 3, everyone is invited to Stronger Together: A Community Benefit Concert from 6 to 10 p.m. Hear prominent leaders discuss healthcare reform and its potential impact on women's health. Sandra Dubose-Gibson, the first bald beauty queen, will share her personal story of empowerment, and the remarkable Nnenna Freelon, a six-time Grammy-nominated international jazz artist will perform with the Duke Medicine Orchestra and Choir. Individual tickets are $125. Dinner and drinks are included.

On Saturday, May 4 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., we're hosting Stronger Together: A Women's Health Education Community Outreach Event. Breakout sessions will feature exciting speakers such as Joe and Terry Graedon of NPR's The People's Pharmacy. The Graedons will talk about Making Positive Lifestyle Changes. Duke's Edna Ballard, MSW will speak on Caregiving: Challenges and Opportunities for Women, and Alice Cooper, RNC/OGNP will offer a talk on Caring for Women's Health: A Holistic Approach and Being Your Own Best Healthcare Advocate.

We want this life-saving information to be available to as many people as possible, so we've made the event affordable. The $25 registration fee includes breakfast, lunch and an art show. Twelve regional artists will showcase and sell everything from sculpture to pottery and scarves -- all of it handmade. And, 10 percent of the proceeds will benefit Duke Medicine Women's Health Initiative Community Outreach.

Thirty vendors will provide demos on everything from healthy cooking to yoga to Pilates. And free wellness screenings are, of course, part of the day. Medical professionals from Duke will be onsite to do routine screenings like blood pressure, Body Mass Index (BMI) and HIV testing. But we'll also have screenings for depression, thyroid abnormalities and lipid profiles -- a test that normally costs $100. (A lipid profile tells you your "good" and "bad" cholesterol levels.)

More importantly, you won't just leave with the results of your screening. You'll leave with a plan. Healthcare professionals will let you know what next steps you should take.

During lunch, Nnenna Freelon will sing a cappella and Sandra Dubose-Gibson (Mrs. Black North Carolina) will be our keynote speaker. Anita Woodley, "Mama Juggs," will share her family's story of dealing with breast cancer and transform how all of us view survivorship. An exciting raffle will end the day.

Women have unique health concerns. So, women need to come together to demand accurate diagnosis, proper treatment and exceptional care.

To learn more or to purchase tickets, click here.

Kathy Kastan, LCSW/MA Ed, is director of Duke Medicine's Women's Health & Advocacy Initiative and is past president, emeritus of the board of directors of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. She is past chairman of the board of the Greater Southeast Affiliate of the American Heart Association. And she has recently accepted a board membership on the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate of the American Heart Association. She has been a national spokesperson for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's The Heart Truth®/Red Dress campaign since 2003. Kastan is the author of From the Heart: A Woman's Guide to Living Well with Heart Disease and is blog frequently.

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