For Faatimah Gamble, health consciousness started early, when she lost her 39-year-old mother.
Gamble, just 16 at the time, didn't know at first what killed her mother — it turned out to be leukemia – but the teen immediately adopted a healthy lifestyle. Back then, that meant eight glasses of water a day, her maternal grandmother's home remedies, and reductions in salt and sugar.
Decades later, her early interest has grown to supporting numerous health initiatives, including the Men's Health Breakfast, which she hosts with her husband, music legend Kenny Gamble.
The free breakfast will be offered Sunday for the 20th consecutive year, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Universal Audenried Charter School in South Philadelphia with the support of health insurer Keystone First.
Wellness screenings will include oral health, HIV/AIDS, body flexibility, body mass index (BMI), hearing, blood pressure, glucose checks, chiropractic evaluation, and mental-health evaluations.
There will also be wellness discussions and healthy cooking demonstrations.
Discussion topics will include nutritional education, sexual and reproductive health, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the causes of chronic spinal pain and heart disease.
Speakers will include:
"They are not doctors who want to give you a pill for everything," Kenny Gamble said. "They look for underlying causes."
Gamble himself has adopted healthier habits, largely due to the influence of his wife, whom he met in the 1980s. (He is now 73, she is 71.)
By then, she was on a macrobiotic diet, and "he was cheesesteaks, macaroni and cheese, and rice and gravy."
"I gradually changed his ways of eating," said Faatimah Gamble, who at the time was administrator for a Teamsters union health and welfare plan. "I'd prepare one meal for me and one for him," she said.
"He eats much healthier now. I make sure of that."
Faatimah Gamble said that attendance at the breakfast had grown from around 50 at the start to about 500 in recent years.
She has also launched the Wellness of You Inc., a nonprofit health resource that offers health promotion programs under the umbrella of Universal Cos., Kenny Gamble's education and development company.
She said her work had been effective inside the company as well as outside: CEO Rahim Islam has gone from more than 300 pounds to about 180.
Her philosophy, she said, is about gradual lifestyle changes, not crash programs.
"Deprivation is worse than gluttony," she said, adding that she sometimes enjoys fried fish and has macaroni and cheese once a year: "On Thanksgiving."