More than 2,000 attend Staten Island Health & Wellness Expo


Wellness expo seeks to give Staten Islanders a healthy resolve

Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 12:54 AM Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 7:13 AM
Andrea Boyarsky
Staten Island Advance/Irving Silverstein
Gabriella Raimondi, 9, a student at PS 23 in Richmond, asks Alfredo (Frado) Dinten a question.STATEN ISLAND, N.Y — It's time for Staten Islanders to stop making excuses and be accountable for their health, tackling problems head-on so more residents don't succumb to diseases like cancer and heart disease.

That was the takeaway from yesterday's third annual Health and Wellness Expo of the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation, which was presented by City Councilman James Oddo and Staten Island University Hospital.

About 2,500 people visited the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield, to participate in free screenings, attend workshops and seminars, view fitness demonstrations and gather information regarding all aspects of healthy living.

"We hope to get as many Staten Islanders as we can to embrace a healthy lifestyle," Oddo said during the morning keynote address.

He held up a copy of the Sunday Advance and read from an article stating that the Island has the highest death rates among the boroughs for heart diseases, cancer, pneumonia and chronic lower-respiratory disease.

"As we stand here today in 2011, the biggest threat to Staten Islanders' health and well-being happens to be Staten Islanders themselves," Oddo noted. "People can find it within themselves — no matter how long they've been sitting on the couch eating bonbons — they can at any age find the fortitude and wherewithal to reclaim their lives."

Staten Island Health and Wellness Expo with Frado Dinten Alfredo "Frado" Dinten of the Biggest Loser leads Staten Island kids in an exercise class.

Dr. Cynara Coomer, SIUH's chief of breast surgery, shared her experiences as a thyroid cancer survivor. She said she never questioned why she got cancer, instead asking, "Why not me?"

"Cancer has become so rampant and I live in a community where cancer incidence is higher than the other boroughs and mortality is higher," she said. "Like many Staten Islanders, I didn't really practice preventive medicine. I didn't see a physician on a yearly basis for a check-up."

Dr. Coomer urged borough residents to go for annual screenings, which can detect a problem before it worsens. She also encouraged lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and increased exercise.

Tony Books Avilez of Staten Island Slim Down offered a way for Islanders to take control of their health. The 10-week Slim Down initiative, which helped more than 1,200 Islanders lose weight last year, will be starting again in January.

Alfredo (Frado) Dinten of Todt Hill, a runner-up on Season 10 of "The Biggest Loser," gave several presentations throughout the day, offering advice to all ages. During one session, he spoke to 250 elementary school children about his weight-loss journey, recounting how he shed 162 pounds on the show.

"I learned a lot on the ["Biggest Loser"] ranch and it got me my life back. Maybe you can help someone you know, a family member, neighbor or friend to get moving," Dinten encouraged before engaging the children in a workout.

Islanders from all over attended the expo, where they perused offerings from more than 100 vendors in respect of everything from nutritional advice to information on conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

They also availed themselves of free health tests, including mammograms, hearing exams and screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes and glaucoma.

For Jeannette Stevenson of New Brighton, the expo was about bringing much-needed information about issues like diabetes and cancer to her community. "A lot of people, especially in my neighborhood, don't know about things like this," she said.

Jeannie Rowan of Sunnyside and Marie Garone of Grant City had their hearing examined and participated in osteoporosis screenings.

"If you start young and take care of yourself, down the line you won't have to worry about all these diseases, hopefully," Ms. Garone said. "I'm a big believer in prevention."

Overall, organizers called the event a great success — one they believe got their message across.

"This is the most successful Health and Wellness Expo to date," said Anthony C. Ferreri, SIUH president and chief executive officer. "Each year, the expo builds upon the prior year with more valuable and current information for all ages."

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