Free health fair this Saturday in Austin

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With summer heat comes favorite foods like ice cream, burgers, hot dogs and fries – and along with that often comes a few extra pounds, or worse, compromised health.

For those who can’t afford to go to the doctor or don’t have health insurance, Third Unitarian Church’s Austin outreach committee is hosting a free health and wellness fair July 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be held at the church, 301 N. Mayfield Ave.

Barbara Minor, the event coordinator, expects a good turnout this year. Fifty people attended last year; this year, about 200 are expected to show. She said the church did more planning and promotion this year, and many people need advice about their health.

Several screenings will be offered. The American Diabetes Association will be screening for diabetes and glucose levels. There will also be booths set up for massage therapy, mental health experts from the National Association on Mental Illness, dental and pharmaceutical experts from University of Illinois, and substance abuse experts, just to name a few. Anyone can come without prior registration.

The PCC Wellness Center, 5425 W. Lake St., will participate at the event, offering nutritional education and breastfeeding tips for new mothers provided by the health clinic’s Americorp members.

PCC development manager Toni Bush said the Americorp members are trained as health educators whose focus includes obesity prevention and breastfeeding peer counseling.

“Our involvement in health fairs in the community allows us to expand our outreach and allows us to go beyond the clinic walls and actually go out into the community and provide vital health education outreach services that families and residents may not get because they may not come to the doctor’s office,” said Bush.

Cody McSellers-McCray, director of health promotions at Westside Health Authority, thinks health fairs are a great way to promote what’s available in the community.

But she’s skeptical of their long-term impact. She said the problem with health fairs is that often, there’s no follow up. Even though someone is given the news that they’re sick, they aren’t given a referral or told where they can go to get free or low-cost health care.

“You just told me I have diabetes or you just told me I have high blood pressure and now what? And, so that often leaves people still with no way to manage the condition,” McSellers said.

For anyone not lured in by the “health” part of the fair, there will also be free food, drinks and prizes available throughout the day. For more information, call 773-826-8115.

There are other free health fairs to attend on the West Side this summer:

July 28, 2010, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Austin campus, 231 N. Pine Ave. Circle Family HealthCare Network will sponsor the Back to School Health Fair. For more information, call 773-379-1373.

Aug. 7, 2010, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at St. Catherine of Sienna-St. Lucy Church Maguire Hall, 34 N. Austin Blvd. For more information, call 708-386-8077

Aug. 11, 2010, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Division Health Center, 4909 W. Division. Circle Family Healthcare Network will sponsor the health fair, which includes screenings, and complete school physicals and sports physicals. For more information, call 773-379-1000.

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