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October 06th, 2022

swmc health fair file photoA visitor to a past Community Health Fair gets some information about Brookdale Liberal Springs at this a booth at the Seward County Activity Center. This year’s Health Fair is scheduled for Oct. 1 at the Activity Center. Courtesy photoROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

Saturday, Oct. 1, residents across Kansas and surrounding regions will have access to free and low-cost preventive health screenings, education services and wellness products in Liberal.

Southwest Medical Center is hosting its annual Community Health Fair from 7 a.m. to noon at the Seward County Activity Center, and the event is open to the public. 

SWMC Marketing and Development Director Janeth Vazquez added there is no cost for general admission for what she called the hospital’s biggest outreach opportunity of the year.

“We will be providing lab testing starting at just $35, which attracts a lot of visitors, as well as several free exams,” she said. “We host the Health Fair as a chance to provide low-cost preventative screening services.”

Vazquez said SWMC officials likewise see the Health Fair as a chance for visitors to learn more about their own personal health through testing and educational booths, all of which showcase the health and resources available in Liberal and Seward County. She said this falls in line with the goal of the event to encourage the community to be proactive about their health and to make it a priority.

“The screenings offered will aid in early detection,” she said. “Preventative care is so important because it helps you stay healthy and access prompt treatment when necessary. It can also help you reduce your overall medical expenses.”

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The team at SWMC is working diligently to prepare for this event. More than 50 booths focused on health wellness will be on-site to provide information about their organization, products or services.

SWMC will offer a variety of free exams including clinical breast exams, orthopedic and sports medicine consultations, pulse oximetry testing and blood pressure measurements.

The Liberal Lion’s Club mobile screening unit will include visual acuity and vision screens, field of vision tests, blood pressure, blood sugar and hearing tests at no charge.

Dr. Mona Rane will provide free skin cancer exams, and First Dental will also offer free oral cancer screenings.

All of this is in addition to new testing being offered at this year’s Health Fair.

“Community members can have their Vitamin D and B12 levels tested as well as magnesium,” Vazquez said. “We’ve had input from the community, and they’ve asked for a vitamin panel for the past several years and some of our providers as well. We just want to make it better. We want to try to bring as much new testing to the community as possible. We’re excited we’re able to provide this new vitamin panel this year.”

The 2020 Health Fair, scheduled to take place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, was postponed, and Vazquez said the 2021 edition showed a strong return for the event.

“Last year was extremely busy,” she said. “I know we had more than 700 lab draws, and I think that just shows there’s a need in our community. This is an annual event, yet hundreds and hundreds of people assisted. They wait on this event to get their lab draws.”

Vazquez said not having the Health Fair in 2020 was unfortunate, and she added everything possible was done to coordinate the fair with safety precautions.

“At the end of the day, we made the decision that at that moment it wasn’t safe, and we didn’t want to expose anybody,” she said. “We had to postpone it. COVID struck around longer than we anticipated. At the end of the day, we had to cancel it, and I think that’s when I truly saw the effect of the Health Fair.”

This is when Vazquez said she began receiving numerous phone calls from people asking when the next Health Fair would take place, as many of those people use the fair to get health screenings.

“Not having it, I think, really showed us there’s definitely a need,” she said. “I had people who would call me every three months to check on the status of the Health Fair.”

Vazquez said the Community Health Fair would not be possible without the support of all of its sponsors and participating organizations.

“Several businesses and organizations that have sponsored us this year include EPIC Touch, Southern Pioneer Electric, Golden Plains Credit Union, the Community Bank, Conestoga Energy, Southern Office Supply, La Mexicana and us,” she said. “They’ve all contributed to this community event, and this really helps us in keeping screening costs low for all participants regardless of their insurance status.”

While COVID-19 is still part of life, Vazquez said the Health Fair will not see heavy precautions like those put in place at public events during the pandemic.

“We do encourage everybody to wear their masks, but it’s not mandatory,” she said. “We will disinfect services frequently, and we’ll make sure we’re wiping down everything.”

This is the 13th year of the Community Health Fair, and Vazquez said she is the most excited for this edition.

“When I first started at the hospital, my first two years organizing it, it was more of learning the logistics, trying to make sure I don’t miss anything, but I think as time has passed and I’ve talked to numerous people in the community, I’m truly seeing the difference these type of events have on people’s lives,” she said. 

Vazquez said some people who have participated in past health fairs have actually saved their lives.

”A gentleman who had prostate cancer had no idea because he was young,” she said. “He told me the story of how he got dragged out to the event by his wife. He did it to make his wife happy. He did the screening, did the blood tests, but in the end when he got the results, he was completely in shock. He said he never felt ill, he never had any symptoms, so he never would have guessed he had cancer. This gentleman was able to take care of himself and get everything resolved in a short amount of time. It saved him a lot of money and a lot of trips to the doctor, to the hospital, but he was able to be proactive about his health and get better. Now, he’s healthy and happy.”

Vazquez said she frequently hears similar stories, and she said most of them are accompanied by great emotion. That emotion-filled conversation changed her perspective of the Health Fair.

“It’s not just checking things off a checklist anymore,” she said. “It’s actually now more meaningful, and I take it very seriously because we are literally saving people’s lives, and there’s also a lot of people in the community who don’t have health insurance. It’s really hard for them to get to the doctor because of financial costs. They don’t want to have an outstanding bill.”

With this in mind, Vazquez said many people utilize the Health Fair as a visit to the doctor.

“Preventative screenings are very important to be able to offer these exams for free and at a low cost, especially for people who don’t have insurance,” she said. “It’s truly a blessing, and it’s an honor we’re able to host and organize this event.”

Regardless of age or background, Vazquez said it is very important for everyone to attend the Health Fair, and it is also a proactive way to improve and maintain health.

“Staying well requires good habits and monitoring your body for signs of illnesses or irregularities,” she said. “Each year, the educational information and the preventative screenings we provide help our visitors and community members identify ways to be able to take better care of their health and the health of those around them, which, to me, is something our community can really celebrate.  The Health Fair is very important. It can truly save your life, or it can save your loved one’s life.”

For more information about the 2022 Community Health Fair, call Vazquez or Rachel Downing at 620-629-6335, and much information is also available at www.swmedcenter.com.

Vazquez reminded those interested in attending the Health Fair do not need to make an appointment.

“All they have to do is show up,” she said. “No pre-registration is required.”