published Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Minority Health Fair aims to bridge health care gap

Jennifer White, left, a chiropractic assistant and director of marketing, conducts a free spinal screening on Khendra Jordan at the Swann Chiropractic booth during the Minority Health Fair at Eastgate Town Center on Saturday.
Jennifer White, left, a chiropractic assistant and director of marketing, conducts a free spinal screening on Khendra Jordan at the Swann Chiropractic booth during the Minority Health Fair at Eastgate Town Center on Saturday.
Photo by Alyson Wright.

Elizabeth Townsend visited the Minority Health Fair on Saturday morning and found out she's allergic to her dog.

"So she's going to the pound when I get home," she deadpanned.

While Townsend said she would never actually give up her dog, she said she still was glad she attended the health fair. The event provides free health information and services to at-risk populations in the Hamilton County region, organizer Al Tucker said.

"It's about education and awareness," he said. "The idea is to get people out at a fun event that encourages people to actually take care of themselves. And hopefully, along the way, it saves some lives."

About 2,000 people attended Saturday's event to be screened for conditions including depression, diabetes, bone density, HIV/AIDS, stroke and stress.

Volunteers also discussed various health issues -- such as sleep apnea, stress management, asthma or hospice care -- with fairgoers as they walked through Eastgate Town Center.

The event has grown steadily since it was started 10 years ago, Tucker said, beginning in a church with just 300 participants. Now, the fair is sponsored by more than a dozen major organizations, including Pepsi, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Walmart. About 120 vendors set up booths Saturday.

Gene Settles, who helped start the fair, said it is a chance for community members to save some money. Anyone can attend, he added, regardless of race.

"It is an excellent opportunity for them to get a fair checkup on their health without paying one penny," he said. "For members of the community who don't have insurance or don't have the money to pay the copay, this is an opportunity for them to come and get free medical services and consultations."

According to a 2010 report from the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, African-Americans in Hamilton County are 20 percent more likely to die from stroke than white residents. Pat Joly, a registered nurse at Erlanger who volunteered at the fair Saturday, thinks the fair can help lower that number.

"I feel like we made some inroads today," she said. "We've had some really good discussions about what a stroke is, what it looks like and what you should do if you are having a stroke."

She's worked the same booth for several years, and said she enjoys building camaraderie with visitors.

"I see repeat people, and it's almost like a reunion of sorts," she said. "All different kinds of people, which is wonderful."

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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