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Our Lady of Peace Health Fair serves North Hills community in outreach event

By Megan Beauchamp

Feb. 18, 2010 10:09 p.m.

UCLA students will help to provide medical services and health education to the North Hills community on Sunday at the ninth annual Our Lady of Peace Health Fair.

The fair is a collaborative effort between the Our Lady of Peace Parish and student groups Pilipinos for Community Health, Latino Student Health Project and Asian Pacific Health Corps. The goal of the fair is to promote health awareness and provide health services for a medically underserved community.

“By bringing health services directly to the community members in a place they feel comfortable in, the parish, we are opening doors that (participants) previously thought were locked,” said Abhya Singla, the community outreach director for Pilipinos for Community Health .

The fair is from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, and will take place at the Our Lady of Peace church in North Hills, Los Angeles. The entire church campus will be utilized from the parish hall and schoolrooms to the parking lot to accommodate all the participants and volunteers.

To match the 100 volunteer students coming from UCLA, Our Lady of Peace will offer at least 100 volunteers to help register participants, translate and direct traffic, said Our Lady of Peace Parish Pastor Alexander Lewis.

The fair is also a learning experience for medical student volunteers who are given the opportunity to interact directly with participants in a public health setting at the fair. These students will work alongside volunteer Kaiser Permanente doctors and nurses to perform hypertension and body mass index screenings for participants.

Last year, about 460 community members were able to receive screenings ranging from mammograms and pap smears to hypertension and cholesterol to vision and dental. The services offered at the fair are also changing to address current health concerns. For example, this year H1N1 shots will be available.

Of the recipients served last year, 87 percent were uninsured and 17 percent had not seen a doctor in three years, said Sampaguita Iaquinto, the community outreach director for Pilipinos for Community Health.

“The event is particularly important to Our Lady of Peace Parish because we live in a very challenging neighborhood and the services being offered could not otherwise be afforded by most people in this vicinity,” Lewis said.

Prior to visiting physicians, participants fill out registration forms at the event and visit nine stations to determine their health status before receiving screenings. However, participants are encouraged to sign up for medical services prior to the event.

“This year the number of participants signed up for mammograms has doubled,” said Javier Rodriguez, administrator of Latino Student Health Project. “We have reached capacity for the number of mammograms and pap smears available at the fair.”

It is estimated that more than 500 people will come to the fair to receive medical screenings and treatments this year.

“The effects of the economy are greater than last year, and the North Hills community has been hit hardest,” Rodriguez said. “A lot more people are eager to apply and come to fair.”

The fair keeps an Excel sheet as a record of the past participants in order to trace their medical progress as a result of the treatments and screenings they receive at the fair. Among the estimated 500 participants, many are not newcomers and have been coming to the fair over the past eight years.

“We emphasize that this is a health fair for the people of North Hills, it is not important to us what church or religion people belong to. The Health Fair is for everyone,” Lewis said.

Recipients of the health services offered are predominately from Latino, Filipino and Vietnamese backgrounds and are uninsured or have limited financial resources.

“The majority of people in the community don’t receive health services because they are afraid of deportation or are uninsured, and this is the one time a year they are able to access those services,” Iaquinto said.

Because the majority of participants are Spanish speaking, the student groups reach out to UCLA Latino sororities and fraternities for volunteers for translating at the fair.

“We are very grateful to these students and the work they do,” said Rosie Hernandez, pastoral associate for Our Lady of Peace Parish. “It’s a blessing as a parish to be able to bring the community this event.”

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