IF YOU GO
Pre-register for the health fair by calling 423-778-5465.
What: 12th Annual Hamilton County Minority Health Fair
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Eastgate Town Center
Wesley Brown didn't feel sick when he tested his blood pressure at the Hamilton County Minority Health Fair. But doctors treated him on the spot when his blood pressure spiked high enough to damage his brain.
"It was a surprise," said Brown. "I felt no symptoms, but I could have had a stroke."
Brown is among thousands of people assisted at the largest minority health fair in the city. The 12th annual event is scheduled again 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Eastgate Town Center.
"It was about changing my diet," he said. "I've been cool ever since."
Some 125 vendors have signed up to provide various health screenings and educational services including blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, bone density and spinal screenings. Chattanooga CARES will provide free HIV testing.
The fair offers free services to people who may not have access to health care, said Chris Ramsey, an event organizer and director of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's Office of Health Care Reform.
About 15 percent of people in Hamilton County lack health insurance. Blacks and Hispanics make up a higher percentage of people who are uninsured. The fair also wants to reach people who are underinsured. And it's open to people regardless of race or ethnicity, Ramsey said.
Based on results from surveys filled out by health fair users, organizers have added local podiatrists and more mental health professionals.
This is the first year the health fair will include three or four professionals from mental and behavioral health fields, said Ramsey.
"It's kind of taboo and people don't want to address it," he said. "It's not new, but this is the most we've had."
Three podiatrists will do foot exams and provide education for people with diabetes. Six years ago the fair had no podiatrist; the first one came from the Veterans Administration clinic in Nashville.
The Omega Psi Phi and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternities started the health fair in 2002 to provide prostate cancer screening for men. The event expanded to include the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which brought health services to women and children.
Chattanooga CARES education and prevention specialist Shateria Smith encourages people to attend the health fair for their own benefit and for the benefit of people who love them.
Her own mother and father died of AIDS before she reached age 12, Smith said.
"Your health is not just about you. Your life involves so many people. It's selfish to not think of your mom, your siblings," she said.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 757-6431.