Health Fair Served the City’s Special Needs

By Marco Arias

Wearing oversized blue latex gloves, three children each picked a color of paint to pour on their hands. On the count of three, they each closed their eyes and started rubbing the red, blue, or black paint on their hands. They were not allowed to peek for 30 seconds while they used their best hand washing techniques to get the paint to cover as much of the gloves as possible.

This learning exercise, led by American Medical Association’s Arjun Patel, turned a lesson on proper hand-washing into a fun activity for the kids who arrived at the evening health fair at Lord Stirling Community School, located at 101 Redmond St. in New Brunswick.

New Brunswick, NJ - Oct. 29, 2014: Arjun Patel leads a hand washing learning activity at the health fair

New Brunswick, NJ – Oct. 29, 2014: Arjun Patel leads a hand washing learning activity at the health fair

The health fair planning committee invited the public to take advantage of free healthcare services on Oct 29 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
“The goal of the health fair is to provide access healthcare services to the people of New Brunswick,” said Mariam Merced of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s Community Health Promotions Program, “We are not a substitute for a doctor. We advise people to follow up on the results of their tests here.”

The health fair had two parts. On one floor, volunteers and medical professionals set up six health stations in Lord Stirling Community School’s classrooms and library. In the school’s gymnasium, programs and organizations set up 25 tables of information about health, arts, and the community.

Rutgers SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education) invited visitors to play a short game involving their favorite beverages and sugar packets. SNAP-Ed’s Maria Courel asked participants which beverage on her table they enjoyed the most. Then she asked them to place a number of sugar packets into an empty cup to match the amount of sugar they think is in the drink. Courel then revealed the real number to participants. One participant told Courel that she was shocked to learn that a 10-ounce bottle of Tropicana apple juice containes the equivalent of nine packets of sugar.

The six health stations together held hearing, vision, and glaucoma screenings. They also performed HIV/AIDS, blood pressure, dermascan skin, cholesterol and glucose tests, as well as dental examinations. For many of the tests, their results came in immediately, said Merced.

In the school’s cafeteria, healthcare professionals administered 100 flu shots on a first come, first serve basis. Experts also offered information about the Affordable Care Act in the cafeteria.

The 100 flu shots came from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. More would have been available if shipments were not backed up, said Yesenia Hernandez, the health fair program coordinator. More flu shots are available at other sites like Elijah’s Promise, health centers, and local pharmacies, Hernandez said.

The health fair planning committee found bilingual speaking volunteers from the New Brunswick High School in order to prepare for the large number of Spanish-speakers to visit the health fair, according to Hernandez.
The health fair caters to the special needs of New Brunswick residents by helping many undocumented residents who have limited access to healthcare, Merced said.

Volunteers helped translate the healthcare professionals’ directions to the Spanish-speaking visitors. At the end of the day, more than 150 people visited the health fair, said the volunteers in charge of the registration desk.

Lord Stirling Community School is only one of the venues for community health events throughout the year. A similar health fair will be held in the spring at Roosevelt Elementary School, Hernandez said.

Information desks included:

  • RWJ Fitness and Wellness Center
  • RWJ Latino Diabetes Awareness Program
  • Middlesex County Public Health Department
  • Rutgers Eric B. Chandler Health Center
  • Hyacinth AIDS Foundation New Brunswick
  • American Heart Association
  • NJ Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Rutgers Snap-Ed Program
  • New Brunswick Fire Department
  • NCADD of Middlesex County
  • RWJUH Breast Cancer Awareness
  • PRAB Family Success Program
  • PRAB Energy Assistance Program
  • RWJMS HIPHOP American Medical Association’s Community Service Chapter
  • The Smile Express
  • Co-Lab Arts
  • NAMI
  • Better World Café
  • Central NJ Maternal & Child Health Consortium
  • New Brunswick Community Farmers Market
  • PNC Bank
  • RWJUH Safety & Trauma
  • The Garden of Healing
  • Project Healthy Me