• ‘It’s your life, take a day to be well’
By Christina Whiting
If taking one day out of the year to be well sounds like a little too much of a time commitment for you, think about this:
“Each year, people’s lives have been saved because of the blood tests they get at the fair,” said fair coordinator and Rotarian Sharon Minsch. “This is a really affordable way to get tested.”
The 30th-annual Rotary Health Fair will start at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Homer High School. The fair generally runs until about 1 p.m.
The Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club, in cooperation with South Peninsula Hospital, sponsors the fair. The theme of this year’s fair: “It’s Your Life, Take a Day to be Well.”
Homer’s first health fair was organized by Homer Public Health, thanks to a grant from the National Institute for Health. Held in the hallway at South Peninsula Hospital, 150 to 200 people attended.
The Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club took over coordinating the fair after its second year.
“It was a natural fit for Rotary to be involved with the health fair,” said Rotarian Will Files. “We have a large group of professionals who are able to pull resources together and work together on a project this large.”
In the late 1990s, the fair was moved to the high school to accommodate the ever-growing number of individuals attending. In 2000, 355 blood panels were provided. Today, they average 1,000.
“Each year, more than 1,000 people walk through the doors of the high school to take advantage of low-cost blood tests, pick up test results and see what information the exhibitors have to share,” said Derotha Ferraro, South Peninsula Hospital marketing director.
The health fair committee, comprising Rotarians, staff from the hospital, health professionals and alternative medicine practitioners, begins working on the fair in August. All 55 members of the Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club participate.
“The Health Fair wouldn’t be what it is without Rotary,” Ferraro said. “Rotary provides the leadership and makes this a community event verses a hospital event.”
The Kachemak Bay health fair has been so successful, it has served as a model for other communities.
In 1999, the Rotary Club received a Discovery grant. With these funds, Files, in his capacity as Rotary president, along with former Rotary District Governor Steve Yoshida and a Canadian Rotarian medical doctor, traveled to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. A sister city relationship and Russian Rotary Club were formed as a result of the visit.
Later that year, Homer Kachemak Bay Rotarians brought three Russians to Homer to personally experience the Homer Health Fair. As a result, these individuals returned to Russia and the first-ever health fair in Russia was held in March 2000, with 1,000 people attending.
“Since then, health fairs have been held in 17 major Russian cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg and Vladivostok,” Files said. “The Russian government has taken over the operation of many health fairs, realizing the importance of disease prevention.”
The Russians implemented the concept of mobile health fairs, involving small groups of medical professionals and Rotarian volunteers traveling to rural villages to provide some of the first screenings and treatments seen in those areas in many years.
“Our goal is to see healthy people living healthy lifestyles,” Files said.
In addition to the health screenings and blood tests, a large part of the fair is distribution of information with 60-70 exhibitors scheduled for this year’s fair.
Exhibitors are information-only and do not sell anything or make appointments. They provide information relating to mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental health, from both Western and Eastern medicine perspectives.
Free childcare will be offered, and this year, an Early Childhood Wellness Fair will take place within the fair, offering information on parenting, early childhood education and more. Other exhibitors include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kachemak Kids and Head Start.
South Peninsula Hospital is hosting the Great Alaska Candy Exchange, where kids and parents are encouraged to exchange their Halloween candy for prizes. The candy is then boxed and shipped to U.S. military men and women serving overseas.
“These men and women fill their pockets with candy and give it to kids in the communities where they’re serving,” Ferraro said. “They receive boxes around Thanksgiving, and we have been able to send some to Homer-related service people, too, which is great.”
There will be numerous door prize drawings and the grand prize is a $250 check that Rotary will write to the winner’s energy provider.
Comprehensive blood analysis is available at the hospital in advance, as well as on the day of the fair.
A basic wellness screening is $40, with additional PSA, TSH, CRP, Vitamin D and HEMO A1C tests also available for additional costs. A description of tests and costs can be found online at www.sphosp.org.
Appointments for blood testing are offered at the hospital laboratory between Oct. 14 and Nov. 1, Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Appointments for blood draw at the fair are encouraged, but walk-in appointments will be available after 9 a.m. Appointments can also be made at Safeway on Oct. 22 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. For more information, or for help making an appointment, call the Health Fair Hotline at 399-3040.
For more information on Rotary, visit www.rotary.org.
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