As Healthcare Dominates Headlines, 1,500 Women Gather for Health Expo

Saturday, November 2, 2013 | 4:24 am

About 1,500 women gathered for the 13th Southern California Women’s Health Conference and Expo on Friday at the Pasadena Convention Center where they were inspired and encouraged to sustain healthy practices over a lifetime.

Lena Kennedy’s vision, a Pasadena resident who is the founder and conference director, brought together organizations, businesses and civic leaders to stage this free health and wellness conference in  what has become both an annual and a growing event.

Under Kennedy’s leadership since 2000, more than 15,000 women have been empowered by the informative and practical health, wellness and lifestyle lectures and workshops led by renowned physicians and healthcare professionals.

“As women it is important for us to take care of each other. So this is an opportunity for us all to do that in a place where its community taking care of community. They’re the ones that take care of the household, they schedule appointments for the kids and the husband; but we also want us as women to take care of ourselves,” Kennedy said.

Many women came with their friends or family with several mother and daughter pairs or sisters setting the overall tone of camaraderie in partnering together to take care of each other.

Participants were exposed to key note speakers, 70 venders, as well as more than 30 workshops informing women about risks associated with epidemic diseases and ailments as well as ways to manage risk factors and make better lifestyle choices and informing women about the Affordable Care Act.

“Part of it is also empowering women to make decisions about their health. Women are making decisions about the household everyday, but what decisions are they making about their health like ‘I need to stop,’ ‘I need to go work out,’ what do I need to learn as I get older in life?” Monique Stennis said.

Stennis said statistics show that preventative maintenance is the most helpful, so an outreach to will teach women to be preventative will maybe help someone combat cancer or other health issues.

“One thing that differentiates us from other conferences is we also have speakers talking about legislation around health. The average women needs to know about what decisions are being made by the government where it can impact what we do here,” Stennis said.

Many women left saying they felt inspired and empowered to start new exercise classes and exfoliate less often than everyday, and ask the right questions to be on the path to health and wellness.

“I’m so impressed with the level of health information and expertise that Lena and her committee were able to bring here today to assist this community. It was an outstanding success,” Phlunte Riddle said.

Wells Fargo was a key sponsor for the conference, noting their commitment to women and minority owned businesses.

“Wells Fargo is always committed to make a difference in the lives of the communities that we serve and we think that financial health is equally as important as overall health. Studies would suggest that where you have financial security, you feel better and were all about providing the opportunity for everyone, regardless of economic status, to take advantage of financial resources, financial literacy programs, and philanthropic efforts in community,” Raphael Henderson said.

The day culminated with a fashion show, bringing in the lifestyle portion of wellness and delighting the women with fun near the end.

The theme of the conference “Your Health, Your way, You are the Driver,” inspired keynote speaker Dr. Juanita Watts into a helpful metaphor of comparing healthful practices for women’s bodies to the maintenance of a car.

“Were all different cars depending on the stage you’re at in your life. You could be a small car, a full sized car, a sports car, or you could be a 1965 red mustang. Whether you are vintage or a Prius, it’s never too early or too late to get started on the road to a healthy life,” Watts said.

The headlights in the car represent breasts and the gentle reminder to get mammograms done, and if you notice something wrong like a lump, follow up with it immediately. An essential part is putting the right fuel in the car for it to drive, representing nutrition and the importance of a balanced diet, plenty of fluids, and regular meals. The exhaust system reminds us to get a colonoscopy because women easily develop colon cancer. The glove compartment box is the internal structure the uterus and the cervix, a reminder to Pap smear frequently. Women also need to understand cardiovascular health, because the heart is the engine and moves the daily operation.

“This is a great time for women’s health because this is so much gender specific research that is really been able to give us more definition in terms of what we need to do, how we need to do it, and where we need to do it,” Dr. Watts said. “I see women’s health really taking off in this next generation to have more customized, personalized care and everybody doesn’t need the same thing at the same time just like we all don’t drive the same color of car. Where you can figure out what you need for your health to do pedal to the metal to do what you need to do to take good care of yourself.”

Dr. Watts emphasized the importance of being conscientious and proactive with knowing about your own health needs so that you can ask the right questions and receive the right care. Health care is moving away from traditional models of visits to the emergency room into more customized and personalized care according to Dr. Watts.

The conference has been held in various locations around Southern California and next year Kennedy hopes to host the conference in Los Angeles.

“Were not only looking on a local scale, were looking at creating this conference on a national level,” Stennis said.

Not only is the conference attempting to go national, it is also expanding to mini-conferences on a monthly basis called the speaker series where a speaker from a hospital or local practice comes to talk about health for a smaller group of women.

“It kinda just keeps the conference alive, where even though were coming together and its about 1,500 of us right now, on a monthly basis were still doing some kind of outreach where were talking about health with women in our community,” Stennis said.

Look for more information on www.socalhealthconference.org.

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