Health fair offers free screenings, a slower pace - November 24, 2015

Courtesy of The Post-Tribune

November 24, 2015

By Sue Ellen Ross • Post-Tribune

James Martinez, who recently moved to Northwest Indiana from Cleveland, has no medical insurance. While he considers options to obtain private insurance, he also takes advantage of free screenings, which brought him to the recent Annual Fall Community Health Fair sponsored by Methodist Hospitals.

Held at the Sts. Peter and Paul Macedonian Banquet Hall in Crown Point, the event hosted 54 vendors.

“I appreciate so much these types of fairs, it helps me to keep on top of things until I get insurance and find a new doctor,” the Gary resident said.

“Not only are the free tests are important, but there’s also a lot of information pamphlets about other health things too. And it’s good to talk to medical people to see what’s new.”

Hundreds of other visitors joined Martinez in receiving free flu shots, as well as screenings that included blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, and bone density.

“I’m having them all,” Sadie Franklin of Gary said with a laugh as she signed up for the screenings. “My doctor visits are few and far between because my insurance doesn’t pay for a lot of them. I need to know where I stand. Today helps.”

Vendors ranged from those who provided information about local health clinics and fitness centers to home health care.

Samuel Jelks, Methodist team leader for financial services, set up his table to assist people in enrolling in the Healthy Indiana Plan and also give information about the federal Affordable Care Act.

Nicole Katon is an adviser with the Purdue Extension Nutrition Education Program. On her table were muffins made of nutritional ingredients, which she offered to visitors as she explained the services her organization offers.

“We are geared toward families with young children, offering nutritional information for better health,” she said. “Currently, I am working with the Cooking Matters at the Store program, where families plan a meal, make a grocery list, and we go to the store where they have the challenge of choosing from the different groups needed, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, etc.”

This on-going program includes grocery store vouchers that enable each family to purchase their food supplies. Those vouchers are made available through grants that Purdue Extension applies for.

Fair activities for the children, including Cricket the Clown painting faces, and a raffle rounded out the day’s agenda.

As diabetes educator Carol Sakelaris discussed Body Mass Index figures with visitors, she said she realized that the pace of activity at the fairs moves much differently than it does at the doctor’s office.

“There, you may be in and out quickly, and not be able to get all the information you need,” she said. “Here, things move along smoothly and we take the time to explain things.”

Donnie Hartsfield of Merrillville can attest to that.

“I got here early and there already was a crowd of people lined up, wanting to get inside before they opened,” Hartsfield said. “And when we did get in, they showed us right away where everything was, even gave us a map. AlI my questions have been answered. No one is rushing me and I just like how the medical people are always smiling.”

Sue Ellen Ross is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.