Clarksville health fair offers resources, services to Hispanic community

·5 min read

Sep. 18—CLARKSVILLE — LifeSpring Health System's annual health fair allowed members of the Hispanic community to find important services and resources related to health and wellness.

Clarksville resident Claudia Sewell came to Parkwood Elementary with her family Saturday to learn about affordable insurance options for her mother, Claudia Jimenez, who recently immigrated from Mexico.

"Right now she doesn't have health insurance, so that's the reason we came, because we're working on getting her insurance, and we don't know what kind of benefits she can get," Sewell said. "LifeSpring kind of helped her figure it out."

The annual Community Health Fair took place Saturday at the Clarksville school. The event focused on serving the local Hispanic community by offering resources ranging from free immunizations to health screenings.

The Clark County Health Department offered COVID-19 vaccinations at Saturday's fair, including the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. LifeSpring also brought its mobile unit to provide flu shots.

The fair included a number of fun activities for attendees, including bicycle giveaways and other prizes. Food trucks offered tacos and shaved ice, and the fair also offered free haircuts.

Many Spanish-speaking interpreters helped attendees throughout the event, and a number of "navigators" were available to talk about health insurance options for the community.

Malinda Mackenzie, community outreach coordinator at LifeSpring, said LifeSpring's partnerships with other community organizations have strengthened over the years, she said, and many agencies offering a variety of services were available at Saturday's event.

The fair celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. Mackenzie said she wanted to provide a welcoming, celebratory event for the local Hispanic community and remove obstacles they may face due to language and other factors.

"This year, we really just wanted to highlight our Hispanic community and let them know how much we appreciate them in the community and help with them with some of the barriers they have," she said. "And we want to have a good time."

Sewell's 5-year-old daughter, Kairi, attends Parkwood Elementary, and she learned about the event when the school sent out a flier. Sewell and her mother are already vaccinated against COVID-19, she said, but she was interested in other community resources available at the event.

Jeffersonville resident Kim Bonilla was a volunteer translator at Saturday's fair. She doesn't have insurance, and she was excited to have the opportunity to receive the flu shot and health screenings at the event, in addition to helping others.

The event provided a welcoming environment for attendees, she said.

"Being Hispanic myself, I think it's amazing," she said. "It's very touching to me."

Clark Memorial Health partnered with LifeSpring to provide screenings, hands-on CPR demonstrations and other resources at the event.

Nurse Alicia Rousseau, community outreach manager for Clark Memorial Health, noted her goal of addressing health inequities among minorities, including the Hispanic community.

"We just want to make sure everyone has equal access — this is a free event, they can come out, get their blood pressure checked, get their blood sugar checked, we can talk to them about their health," she said.

Rousseau said Parkwood Elementary School has a high Spanish-speaking population, and there are a number of Hispanic residents surrounding the school.

"It's easy access to come and find out what they need to do to keep themselves well and healthy and just keep the family engaged in the community," she said.

Pamela Clark, director of the minority health initiative at Community Action of Southern Indiana, said her mission is to address health disparities among minorities, including higher mortality rates from chronic diseases.

"We want to make sure we close that gap and have those resources that we think they need, and if not, we'll make sure they are connected to that resource before they leave the health fair," she said.

Mackenzie said even if attendees did not get their COVID-19 vaccine at the fair, it offered opportunities to ask questions about the vaccine and the virus.

In the first hour of the fair, Clark County Health Department didn't administer many COVID-19 vaccinations, but health department registrar Idannia Portugal noticed many people said they had already received their shots.

The fair offered screenings for HIV/AIDS, as well as information about diabetes, colon cancer and other topics community members may not know much about, Mackenzie said. Attendees could also find information about mental health resources.

"A lot of times we don't have that conversation, so this has been a safe place for them to come and pick up that information and talk to other people about the options they have [for mental health]," she said.

The fair included COVID-19 precautions such as indoor masking and outdoor booths. Rousseau described the fair as safe and healthy way to get important information, and she noted other health impacts related to the pandemic, saying many have put other health issues "on the back burner," she said.

"Maybe they had been worried about blood pressure before COVID hit, but it's like well, you probably still need to be worried about your blood pressure, so come out, let's check it and see if there's anything we can do to help fix it," Rousseau said. "We just want to make sure it's OK coming back out, we're keeping things safe, doing it appropriately, but it's time to get back on the health wagon and make sure things are getting checked out."

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