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U.Va.-Led Health Fair Serves Local African-American Cultural Arts Festival

July 27, 2009 — On Saturday hundreds of people turned out for Charlottesville's 20th annual African-American Cultural Arts Festival at Booker T. Washington Park on Preston Avenue.

While the lineup of dance and musical performances, or a chance to enjoy the rainbow colors of traditional African garb may have been the main draw for many, roughly 300 festivalgoers also wandered down the hill from the main stage area to visit a huge white tent where a community health fair offered free health screenings and information from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Charlottesville Community Health Fair was organized by the University of Virginia's Office for Diversity and Equity and co-sponsored by the U.Va. Health System, Martha Jefferson Hospital and the Charlottesville/Albemarle Health Department.

About a dozen different displays offered information and consultation on a variety of health topics, from poison prevention to obesity, from Alzheimer's disease to family planning.

Many attendees filled out health surveys detailing family history and risk factors, which were correlated with measurements of body mass index, blood sugar and blood pressure to screen for high blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions. As needed, visitors were referred to physicians for follow-up care.

The health fair's free screenings can mean prevention or early detection of various conditions and chronic diseases, said Connie Lee, an associate professor of nursing who led the organization of this year's event.

The fair did not offer comprehensive physical examinations but did have a separate tent set up to offer youth sports physicals.

This was the second year that U.Va.'s Office for Diversity and Equity organized the health fair to coincide with the local African-American Cultural Arts Festival.

"This event has the potential to occur on an annual basis and to be widely known and well utilized by the community," said Dr. Marcus Martin, U.Va.'s interim vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity and an assistant dean of the School of Medicine. "The goal from our Office for Diversity and Equity is community engagement, education, health, welfare and embracing diversity. This is a wonderful way to reach people."

This was the fourth community health fair organized by the Office for Diversity and Equity, which had previously partnered with local churches to put on a health fair in Fluvanna County in 2006, and in Buckingham County in 2007.

The event was staffed by volunteers, from U.Va., Martha Jefferson and elsewhere. Many were veteran health-care providers like Mary Walker, who worked at U.Va. for 34 years as a nurse's assistant in pediatrics. "This is a good event to work at," she said. "Any time you can help people, that's a good thing."

— By Brevy Cannon

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