Merlene Davis: Fair offers a lot of health screenings with no money required

When examining the highest incidents of diabetes, stroke, hypertension and heart disease, the groups that have led the pack for a long time includes blacks, Hispanics and the poor.

If that were a race to a pot of gold, someone would charge them with cheating.

Instead, it is a race to a compromised quality of life or shortened life expectancy, so the challenge to change those results must come from within those communities.

That's what Jessica Robinson Jackson thinks and that's why she has come up with an event she hopes will encourage folks to scout that road leading to health and fitness changes.

Jackson, health equity coordinator for the Fayette County Health Department, is adding a twist to the typical health fair by including interactive stations for health screenings that will give immediate indications of a participant's health status.

The Minority Family Health and Wellness Expo at William Wells Brown Community Center June 22 will give participants a clear picture of where they stand healthwise and information on how to make improvements.

"The purpose is to educate the community on how to take charge of their health through fitness, healthy eating, preventive care and lifestyle changes," she said.

At the Central Baptist Health Works station, a quick finger-stick blood test will reveal at least a couple of risk factors that can help save lives.

It will measure for cholesterol through several numbers that will reveal a lipid profile, the detailed amount of the fats in your blood. Those numbers are measures for HDL or "good" cholesterol, LDL or "bad' cholesterol, and triglycerides. A build up of cholesterol on the sides of the arteries can block blood flow.

The test will also measure glucose, or the level of blood sugar, which is a risk factor for diabetes. People with diabetes are at increased risk for stroke and heart disease.

That level of screening is not available at most health fairs. But Jackson is hoping to reach out to those people who don't have medical insurance or who haven't been to a doctor because a visit is cost prohibitive.

Other testing will include blood pressure and heart rate, measurements for height, weight, body mass indicator (BMI) and your waist circumference.

And, for diabetics, there will be foot screenings to check for problems. Diabetics who have high glucose levels can experience poor circulation in their lower legs and feet, which causes nerve damage or neuropathy. That can lead to foot ulcers and, in severe cases, amputation.

Plus, information will be available for diabetics on the myths associated with what they can eat.

"They can eat everything, but in moderation," Jackson said.

The Lion's Club will conduct vision and hearing tests and the health department will give HIV/Aids tests. Also, Dr. Aprille Nelson of Broadway Family & Cosmetic Dentistry will talk about the importance of dental health, which tends to be pushed to the back burner for the uninsured.

Other organizations that have signed on are Food Works, a website with information about gardening, cooking, preparation and storage and living healthy especially for residents of East end Lexington; The Kentucky Pink Connection, a program that reduces barriers to breast cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment; and the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program, which is a network of health professionals whose mission is to reduce new cases of colon cancer.

The inflatable colon makes a return to Lexington. Participants can walk through it and learn more about the colon.

Participants will be given kits that can be used for at-home colon cancer screenings and then mailed back in. If an abnormal reading occurs, the patient will receive a free colonoscopy.

That is a lot of medical testing for no money. Jackson said come prepared to spend enough time at each station to get the results.

Water and fruit will be available and children can let off excessive energy with the wide range of activities.

"This will not be just a grab and go," Jackson said. "We will give them incentives for their time."

Those incentives include gift cards plus chances to get a bicycle and hula hoops. There will be special door prizes for men, as well, to draw them to the expo.

Although minorities and the poor are the targeted audience, Jackson said, everyone is welcome.

"And it is all free," she said.


The Minority Family Health and Wellness Expo

When: 11 a.m.- 3 p.m., June 22.

Where: William Wells Brown Community Center, 548 East 6th St.

Cost: Free.

Information: Call (859)288-2332.