By Taylor Short

Killeen Daily Herald

Dozens attended the Health Symposium 2010 to learn about the benefits of immunizations, dangers of sickle cell anemia and receive free health screenings at the Killeen Community Center Saturday.

The event is hosted once a year by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority

Inc., Killeen Alumnae Chapter, and partners with local hospitals and medical professionals to share information about chronic diseases and what people can do to keep themselves safe.

This is the first year the symposium was able to partner with Metroplex Health System and Scott & White HealthCare, said Tonia Bellard, chapter president.

Dr. Don Daniels, chief medical officer with Metroplex gave a presentation about parental refusal to get their children vaccinated because of misconceptions about the risk of illness from immunizations.

"The benefits far outweigh the known, serious side effects. Bad side effects are exceedingly rare and common side effects, things like fever and chills, shouldn't deter parents from vaccinations," he said.

Daniels advises getting the H1N1 vaccine now because medical officials predict another wave of the flu this spring.

After the presentation, attendees enjoyed healthy snacks and took advantage of free health screenings from Metroplex, measuring body mass index, blood pressure and height and weight.

Wellness Coordinator with Metroplex, Michelle Demarais, said those who get screened have the option to send any abnormal results to a doctor for further testing.

"That is the purpose – to make sure our community is healthy, that's what we want to do, and we'll do that one person at a time," said Metroplex Community Relations Director Susan Kolodziejczyk.

Nurse Practitioner Richard DeVault with Scott & White HealthCare described the effects of sickle cell anemia, showing slides of doughnut-shaped red blood cells compared to sickle cells, shaped more like crescent moons, that tend to get stuck passing through small blood vessels.

The disease affects blacks in one out of every 375 births compared to 1 per 1,100 for Hispanics and one per 58,000 for whites. It can cause physical weakness, heart failure and brain and organ damage.

DeVaut said the community can help fight the disease in their area by donating blood regularly, supporting local sickle cell societies or groups and by contacting state and federal representatives to urge them to raise money for research.

Barbara Sias-Chin came to the event Saturday and wanted to learn more about the disease that has affected some of her friends.

"Why not?" she said when asked why she got a screening. "Hopefully, it will help parents and children, friends and neighbors."

Contact Taylor Short at or (254) 501-7476. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcove.

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