Put Prevention into Practice During Community Health Fair

The upcoming 12th Annual Community Health Fair is more than a screening session for various conditions. It's a learning experience for nursing students. It's a chance for everyone involved to give something back to the community, all while learning how to stay healthy. 

With the theme "Put Prevention into Practice," the fair will feature health screenings and activities that teach health promotion and disease and injury prevention. The fair will be from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. April 13 at the Museum of Art at Midwestern State University. 

Betty Bowles, Assistant Professor of Nursing at MSU's Wilson School of Nursing, said that the first fair was done as a gift to the community. Participants were invited from across the city to set up exhibits. Since then, the fair has evolved into an assignment for the senior nursing students in the community nursing class, where they learn that nursing goes beyond the clinical setting in offices or hospitals. "In that class, students go to schools, hospice centers, and other settings where they can see the role nursing has in prevention and promoting health care," Bowles said. "This works with our goal of moving toward prevention and getting people to work for a healthier lifestyle, rather than treatment." 

For the fair, students work in teams of three or four and choose a subject in disease prevention or health promotion, then work with that community service organization counterpart. For example, if heart health is the topic, they would work with the American Heart Association to conduct screenings and make presentations. Aside from the nursing aspect of the fair, students also learn how to plan and stage a large-scale event by setting goals and meeting them. "The fair is an academic piece that has a practical result," Bowles said. 

Because the College of Health Sciences and Human Services sponsors the fair, dental hygiene and respiratory therapy students get involved also with exhibits on living healthy. At least 20 groups will have representatives at the fair, including United Regional. Blood pressure readings, tests for cholesterol/lipids, glucose, pulmonary function, hearing, vision, HIV/AIDS, STDs, depression, skin cancer, and Alzheimer's disease are among the different screenings that participants could receive. Educational activities related to nutrition, exercise, smoking cessation, violence/abuse prevention, drug/alcohol abuse prevention, stress reduction, dental health, and more will be available. 

In the spirit of giving back, student organizations will have the chance to donate money to the nonprofit of their choice and fulfill part of their philanthropic service by attending the fair. Dominique Calhoun, Coordinator for Multicultural Affairs, said that organizations can pay a $25 fee and members will receive a form they can take to the different exhibits to be signed. The student organization that collects the most forms will receive the money collected to pass onto its designated nonprofit. 

Community members who attend also can catch the giving spirit by donating blood, canned food for the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank, or outdated prescription glasses. 

The event has grown from its early days of being held in Bridwell Hall to needing the open space that the Museum of Art at MSU offers. More than 1,000 people attended last year. The Museum of Art at MSU is located at #2 Eureka Circle. For information about this year's health fair, call 940-397-4048.