Fair offers empowering tips for healthy living

Published: Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 3:27 p.m.
Everything you wanted to know about living a healthy lifestyle was offered under one roof during the 7th annual Family Empowerment Health Fair.
Held Saturday morning at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-purpose Center, the theme of the fair, "Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies," was thoroughly covered by a host of speakers as well as the more than 60 vendors, which offered informational handouts, one-on one discussions, free health and dental screenings, free massages, munchies, and free items ranging from pens and pencils to children's books and even plastic red fire hats for the children.
Held in conjunction with King Week 2007, the health fair was sponsored by the Shands Eastside Community Relations and Education Coordination, Kangaroo Stores of Gainesville, and McDonald's of Gainesville.
Alachua County Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, event chair and director of Community Relations and Education Coordination, tackled issues that disproportionately affect the black community by offering a forum to address those issues and provide the community with tools to become empowered to take charge of their health.
The health fair was packed with a steady influx of people. The first person people attending encountered at the door was Harriett Stafford, whose job was to greet people and make them feel welcome.
Inside the fair, people mingled and learned. Chestnut welcomed the crowd and the Rev. Kevin W. Thorpe, pastor of Faith Missionary Baptist Church and chaplain of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida Inc., along with family practitioner Dr. Kevin McBride and Johanna McBride, offered greetings.
"A community will not survive without health,'' said Dr. Kevin McBride. ''This is a good format to educate the community."
Dr. Karen Cole-Smith, executive director of Santa Fe Community College East Gainesville Initiative, gave an overview of the event and introduced the vendors.
Dina Mosher, Alachua County Health Department Healthy Lifestyles, offered health tips; and Dr. Christine Stopka, UF College of Health and Human Performance, provided exercise and ergonomics information. Students in the Institute of Culinary Arts at Eastside High School provided healthy munchies for everyone to enjoy.
Alachua County Commissioner Rodney J. Long, president of the King Commission, said he wished a health fair could be held every month, but said he would be glad if it could be held at least twice a year.
"We are happy to include it in our theme,'' he said. ''It is very important that we understand issues related to health care." Long said his goal is to have a 20-day celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with more involvement from churches and schools. He said that goal would be attained in three years.
Chestnut said the event has grown over the seven years through a collaboration with community partners. Planning already is under way for next year's health fair, set for Jan. 26, 2008.
Olga Brown, 21, who brought her two children, Justin, 8 months, and Gaby, 4, said she came to the health fair to learn how to have a healthy lifestyle. "I am worried about my family's health," she said.
Roxanne Simpson, 22, said, "I do not want to end up with chronic health problems. I came here because I want to learn early on what I have to do to stay healthy, and not wait until I am sick."
Dr. Yana Banks and nurse Nancy Day, ARNP, manned the "Reach Out and Read" booth. They said the program is funded through a grant from the Alachua County Health Department. Yanks said Day wrote the grant for a program that trains doctors and nurses to advise parents about the importance of reading aloud to their children. The program also provides books that are given to children at pediatric check-ups from six months to six years.
"At six months, babies are given a book and one book every time they come for pediatric check-ups so that by the age of six, the children have their own library," said Day.
Parnell Jones, who along with his two sons, Charles, 8, and Chad, 6, stopped by the "Reach Out and Read" booth said the program sounded very impressive. Chad and Charles were given books to take home.
There was a waiting line for massages by therapists Jessica Cazessus and Vickie Leier. Derek West, who received a back massage from Cazessus, said he had a tightening in his back when he arrived, but thanks to the massage he was already feeling better.
"We have been busy,'' said Leier, ''and we have not stopped giving massages since we opened this morning."
As residents left the health fair, they were offered a bag of apples as a reminder of the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top