Minority Health Fair to promote prevention, trust

By definition, community health focuses on the maintenance, protection, and improvement of the health status of population groups and communities.

April is minority health month and to honor its commitment to community health, the Clark County Combined Health District (CCCHD) will host its 5th Minority Health Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at Lincoln Elementary School, 1500 Tibbetts Avenue, Springfield.

The event, initiated in 2016 but canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, aims to connect the minority population in Clark County with access to healthcare, promote relationships between providers and patients and help remove barriers for people accessing healthcare whether that be lack of insurance or transportation or a lack of trust with local providers.

“We want to make sure (the Health Fair is) inclusive of our growing and changing community,” says Gracie Hemphill, Health Planning Supervisor for the CCCHD. “We want to respond to what is happening and make sure everyone has the opportunity to be involved and have access to healthcare.”

Health screenings – such as blood pressure, blood sugar and labs – will be available to those who attend, and if needed, they can speak with one of 12 participating local doctors. Doctors will be rotating throughout the day along with two dentists. COVID-19 vaccines and boosters will also be available.

New this year is a shuttle service to the event running from 9:40 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. The shuttles will be available at Perrin Woods Elementary School (431 West John Street), Grayhill Apartments (220 Montgomery Avenue) and Restored Life Ministries (1117 Innisfallen Avenue) about every 20 minutes during the event.

“We are excited to have the transportation to the Health Fair to eliminate any transportation barriers,” Hemphill says.

Also new this year is a small-scale Baby Fair intended for expectant mothers and families with small children.

“It’s all resources geared toward them like the Mercy Health Birthing Center, WIC, and more,” Hemphill says. “One of our big pushes as a community is focusing on maternal and child health and looking at preterm births and low birth weights and trying to get more moms to have prenatal care and incorporate safe sleep habits. It aligns with our overall community health improvement plans.”

Hemphill also says the event will have interpreters for Spanish and Haitian speakers and include more than 40 vendors, raffles, door prizes, and more.

“The event is open to everyone, whether you fall into a minority category or not. All screenings are free,” says Hemphill. “Guests will receive a giveaway bag that includes a scale, a blood pressure cuff, a thermometer, and pulse-oximeter. They can take those screening tools home with them.”

Hemphill says the planning committee wanted to “come back with a splash” since the event wasn't able to happen the last two years.

“We’re really excited to have the event back and hope the community will take advantage of it,” she says.

Dr. Surender Neravetla, Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Springfield Regional Medical Center and author of "Salt Kills," has been serving the Springfield community for 40 years.

“Every town has neighborhoods where people have poor outcomes to bad health problems,” he says. “Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes … all of these things are more common in (minority) areas.”

Nerevetla says not only are these things more common in minority areas, but they also present in the hospital later in the disease process than most other places.

“Especially in black American neighborhoods, the consequences of high blood pressure … is two to four times worse,” he says. “It’s called a malignant disease in black America. It affects a very young age and complications come on quickly and are hard to control.”

Nerevetla says across the country, minorities don’t have equal access to the healthcare system or there is no healthcare in the area.

“Even if there is one, they don’t access them as much as you would expect,” he says. “There is a long history of barriers. They are disconnected with the healthcare system … and there is a long history of distrust.”

Neravetla has been writing about preventive health for some time now. About 15 years ago he realized the need to promote prevention more.

“Heart disease is largely preventable. When we talk about prevention, minorities have been much more affected,” he says. “Prevention has not been taught to them at all. In Springfield, we have a defined neighborhood we can reach out to. The objective of the health fair is to reach out and bridge the gap in the community; make access easy and let them know the medical system cares about them.”

Nerevetla says the committee has worked hard to put the health fair together.

“This is our town, and we are only as good as our weakest link,” says Neravetla. “We have an opportunity to engage in and make a difference in our neighborhoods.”

Read more articles by Darci Jordan.