CLARKSTON, Ga.—The population of the small town of Clarkston includes residents from countries around the globe, including South Sudan, Syria, Bhutan and Vietnam. The city is home to people who grew up in refugee camps across the ocean after fleeing war and torture in their homelands. But it also is home to residents who have lived their entire lives in apartments and homes near Memorial Drive in DeKalb County.
On Saturday, Nov. 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., all residents of the diverse Clarkston community are invited to the Clarkston Summit on Georgia State University’s Clarkston Campus. The free summit will bring health and business leaders together to share ideas with residents about improving community health, economic opportunity and education.
The summit was the brainchild of the Refugee and Immigrant Health and Wellness Alliance (RIHWA), a group that seeks to improve the health and social services available to Atlanta’s refugee and immigrant communities. RIHWA is a partnership among, Georgia State University and its Perimeter College, Emory University, the DeKalb County Board of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Georgia’s refugee resettlement agencies, health care providers and clinics, and numerous community organizations. Its goal is to enhance existing partner programs to develop a comprehensive approach to promote health and wellbeing in Atlanta’s refugee and immigrant communities.
“With more than 140 different countries represented at the Clarkston Campus, the college is in a unique position to address some of the persistent disparities affecting the overall health in the Clarkston community,” said Mary Helen O’Connor, senior faculty associate for Perimeter College in the Georgia State Office of International Initiatives.
The disparities include inequities in education and employment, literacy rates and poverty, she said.
“Right now, 52.6 percent of children live in poverty in this zip code — and 45 percent of adults don’t have health insurance,” O’Connor said. “Recent United Way data also shows that the unemployment rate is far above the national average at 21 percent.”
“We are excited about connecting with community members and community organizations at the Clarkston Summit,” said Dr. Parminder S. Suchdev, associate director of the Emory Global Health Institute and one of the founders of RIHWA. “Our alliance aims to listen, learn and then act to enhance health and wellness in the community.”
Speakers at the event will include WXIA-TV television reporter (and Decatur High School graduate) Neima Abdulahi, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, Clarkston City Councilman Awet Eyasu, and Capt. Martin Cetron of the U.S. Public Health Service and the CDC.
The program begins in the Cole Auditorium in Perimeter College’s Fine Arts Building on the Clarkston Campus, 3735 Memorial College Ave., Clarkston, Ga., 30021.
“The summit will include breakout sessions to give community members the opportunity to express their needs, concerns and opinions,” O’Connor said.
Following the breakout sessions will be an expo at which nonprofit organizations and researchers can share their work. Interpreters will be present to assist during the event.
“The Clarkston Summit is a novel and unique opportunity to connect the academic sector with nonprofit organizations and community leaders to advance the well-being of this community in meaningful and sustainable ways,” said Dr. Heval Kelli, a Syrian refugee and Georgia State alumnus who is now an Emory cardiology fellow.
Kelli, who volunteers at the Clarkston Health Clinic near the campus, will speak at the event. Among the topics to be discussed will be access to health care.
“We’ll be talking about health education, about basic diseases and prevention and access to care,” Kelli said. “People don’t know what’s available, and this is about education first.”
Registration is requested.
Photo: Mary Helen O’Connor, senior faculty associate for Perimeter College in the Georgia State University Office of International Initiatives, interacts with students at Georgia State’s Clarkston Campus, where more than 140 countries are represented. Photo by Artem Nazarov.