Yalies hold health fair

More than 140 New Haven residents received personal health report cards Saturday at the Church Street South Community Health Fair, which was organized and run by Yale students.

The fair, the first in a series, kicked off the Yale Health Initiation Task Force’s campuswide coalition to provide health care information and services to New Haven communities. Many New Haven residents in attandance remarked that the fair was an effective antidote to the lack of accessible health care information available in New Haven.

A young attendee of Saturday’s Church Street Health Fair gets one-on-one attention.
Eva Galvan
A young attendee of Saturday’s Church Street Health Fair gets one-on-one attention.

Mikhail Higgins SPH ’09, who founded the task force with Brandon Ogbunugafor MED ’11, said he hopes the coalition will help address New Haven’s specific health care needs by building “a line of communication between Yale students and New Haven residents.”

At the fair, student volunteers measured each individual’s height, weight, body mass index, blood glucose level, blood pressure and visual acuity, and recorded the information on a personal health report card. Physicians and health care experts then helped attendees interpret their reports and develop follow-up health care plans. Representatives from the New Haven-based Hill Health Center encouraged people to schedule follow-up appointments on the spot.

“This is a very good turnout from all sectors of the population,” Hill Health Center’s Director of Nursing Robert Howell said, surveying the crowd. “There are people from the pediatric group all the way up to the geriatric group.”

While parents and grandparents collected information from the different stations, kids gathered around authentic pig organs and a human skeleton at a table run by the Have Bones, Will Travel program that teaches anatomy at local elementary schools. School of Nursing lecturer Linda Pellico, the founder of the program, and student volunteer Brandon Ko NUR ’10 engaged the younger attendees with an interactive lesson about the human body.

“If you go to sleep, you get bigger,” said Crystal, a 6-year-old New Haven resident, noticing that the skeleton’s hand was much larger than her own.

Lily Torres, the community outreach specialist for AmeriChoice in New Haven, remarked on the wide range of resources available at the fair — especially the information targeted toward kids.

“The little ones help spread our message,” she said. “They go home and ask their parents about medical insurance.”

Torres’ own goal was to spread awareness about AmeriChoice, which offers health care coverage to recipients of Medicaid and other state health care programs.

Albert Rivera, a 28-year-old New Haven resident who works for LA Home Construction, agreed that while health care information and services may be available in New Haven, they rarely reach the people who need them.

“People here have so many things to worry about,” Rivera said. “The last thing they worry about is health.”

But Rivera noted that the staff outnumbered the people in attendance.

To attract more New Haven residents to the fair, Rivera suggested promoting the fair more aggressively — especially to youth.

“Maybe 50 Cent could come,” Rivera quipped, acknowledging how difficult it is to make health engaging for teenagers.

Matthew Lopes ’72 SPH ’77, the AIDS division director for the New Haven Health Department, explained the relatively low turnout by citing the “town-gown” divide.

“This is a true effort to bridge the gap,” he said. “This is both a symbolic and real act of outreach.”

The next fair will be held in fall 2009, Higgins said.

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