Last Friday during Case for Community Day, volunteers transformed one of the multipurpose courts in Veale Center into a health fair bristling with information desks, medical screening devices and even dental examination chairs, all available without cost or appointment.
A constant buzz of activity filled the air as a steady stream of visitors, roughly 150 in total, took advantage of the wide variety of screenings and services offered. Many went from table to table gathering information or stopped by for a specific service. Flu shots were especially popular, with nurses giving out over 100 flu shots in the first half of the fair alone.
The fair had a cheerful and welcoming atmosphere, created by a whole host of eager volunteers willing to help anyone who might visit. The volunteers consisted mostly of nursing, medical, dental and graduate students supported by CWRU faculty and local healthcare organizations.
Dr. George Kikano, chairman of Family Medicine and Community Health and one of the event’s organizers, emphasized the strong community aspect of the fair. “They can come and get all kinds of different services under one roof,” he said.
Kikano also highlighted the educational value of connecting with the community and other organizations, a feature of the fair which student volunteer Jessica Hively experienced firsthand.
Hively, a senior nursing student who checked blood pressure and gave dozens of flu shots, enjoyed getting a chance to practice her future career skills.
“It’s been very enjoyable getting to work with people, getting to practice my flu shot, knowing that I can do this,” she said.“It’s been a great experience working with them and learning too.”
Nurses from MedWorks, a local nonprofit that focuses on improving access to healthcare for the uninsured and underinsured, were featured prominently at the health fair. MedWork’s licensed nurses assisted in the medical screenings and services and played a significant supportive role for the students.
Carrie Clark, executive director of MedWorks, praised the contributions of the students.
Sitting down for a flu shot to demonstrate the skill of the student volunteers, Carrie cooed, “I’ve had my share of shots, but that was good.”
“They have a sense of mission already,” she said. “They’ve got it down.”
In addition to the health services provided, the fair also offered a large amount of information through organizations such as the American Sickle Cell Anemia Association, the Cleveland Department of Public Health and the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.
The informational services participated in order to connect patients, especially the underserved or uninsured, to the wider healthcare system. The screenings could lead to follow-up appointments if a problem appeared while volunteers assisted visitors in finding accessible health care providers or nearby clinics.
In response to the recently implemented Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace, the fair included a table to assist underinsured or uninsured visitors in finding coverage on the exchanges. Gina Garrett, a graduate student at the Mandel School of Applied Social Science, staffed the table.
“We are pointing people to the website and we are just being that connector to the resource,” Garrett said. “It is very plain language, very easy to understand, but some people just want to have people talk to them face to face.”
The Cleveland Department of Public Health, which contributes to most local health fairs, also had an information table armed with dozens of fliers and pamphlets covering a wide range of public health issues from local clinics and disease management to drug treatment and HIV/AIDS testing.
David Gretick, the director of the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, represented the department at the fair and worked to let attendees know about what his office offers.
“We’re a big resource; a lot of people are surprised to learn what we offer,” he said.
Gretick summed up the value of the CWRU fair, and similar health fairs across the city, as a great starting place to meet varied health care needs.
“A lot of people come up and say ‘I need to get tested, I also have kids that need immunizations, and I want information on sickle cell.’ We can usually help,” he noted.“We want to make sure we spread the public health message: We are here for you.”