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Health fair prompts lifestyle changes

Niklas Martin

Two physician assistant students look into a child's mouth during an oral screening at a health fair.

Students in Wingate’s Physician Assistant program perform an oral health screening at Saturday’s health and wellness fair.

Organizers of the inaugural Wingate University Community Health Fair, held late last month at the county’s Agricultural Center, knew that the event was a success even as they packed up that Saturday. But a community-impact report released this week shows just how much was accomplished at the free, four-hour event. The fair drew 320 guests and involved 188 health science students and 31 community organizations. Most significantly, according to exit interviews compiled by Dr. Rebecca Bliss,  assistant Physical Therapy professor, and Dr. Carolyn Ford, director of Community Health Outreach, 68 percent of respondents plan to make health-related changes as a result of the fair. More than 35 percent say they learned about community resources they didn’t previously know about. Just over 1 in 10 plan to see a doctor as a result of information obtained that day.

Ford had listed “connecting people with needed services” and “educating them to help them make lifestyle changes” as two of the main goals of the event, sponsored in part by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Novant Health. She was pleased to see that the educational component is likely continuing as more than half of those polled at the health fair said they planned to read the health information they were provided and share it with family and friends.

Community Health Services of Union County, another event sponsor, gained 32 patients at the fair, increasing its outreach to the uninsured. Fortunately, over 75 percent of respondents at the event live in Monroe, Wingate or Indian Trail, all within driving distance of the clinic. The fair also attracted guests from Anson County, Marshville, Matthews, Charlotte and Waxhaw, and even a few from as far away as Fort Mill, S.C.

The most popular services performed at the event were blood pressure checks (126) and diabetes and cholesterol screenings (105). Hands-only CPR classes were given to 60 people, and 56 people received oral health screenings. Flu shots were given to 42 adults, compliments of Walgreens, which served as an event sponsor. Thirty people had their vision checked, and the Red Cross collected 20 pints of blood.

In addition to those already mentioned, Health Fair sponsors included Food Lion and the Union County Health Department. McAllister’s Deli, Spiro’s Hilltop Fish Fare & Steakhouse and Iron Horse Motorcycles also contributed to the day’s success.

Participants who filled out exit polls reported that curiosity about health was the main reason they attended the fair. They also liked that it was convenient and free.

University students, who provided clinical services and information at more than 50 booths, include future pharmacistsphysical therapistsphysician assistants and nurses. Twenty-five Wingate University faculty members also volunteered at the event.