Nine professional translators, a roomful of medical volunteers and the Mexican consulate joined forces to throw a community health fair at Clark Middle School Saturday morning.
From 8 a.m. to noon there were free health screenings and blood tests for less than $50; informational booths and handouts printed in both English and Spanish. Betty Reith, southcentral program director at Alaska Health Fairs, Inc., said events like Sunday’s play an important role in community health.
“We save people’s lives,” she said. “A lot of people can’t afford their health, so they come here.”
Alaska Health Fairs is a statewide nonprofit that partners with other groups to host the events. Reith said it costs $500 to organize a fair — money that mostly goes toward the cost of insurance. The Mexican consulate sponsored the Clark event as part of Binational Health Week, an effort to improve the wellbeing of underserved Latino communities nationwide.
Reith said there’s a large need.
The consulate sponsored last year’s event, too, and she said about half of the people who came through didn’t speak English. Many of them were able to connect to important services and receive critical, basic information about their health. Reith recalled people who were able to detect the early stages of leukemia, and one woman who was in need of an eye surgery but spoke no English and ran into troubles with Medicaid. When she came to the health fair, the Mexican consulate was able to help her arrange the crucial surgery.
“If it wasn’t for the health fair, they wouldn’t have found her,” Reith said.
That’s where the fair’s location comes in to play.
Javier Abud-Osuna, Mexico’s consul in Anchorage, said Mountain View is an ideal place to host the fair because of its diverse population and many Hispanic residents. While this year’s event only saw about 75 visitors, organizers blamed the pouring rain. Last year’s fair served around 200 people. But despite the decreased turnout, Abud-Osuna said each person who came by helped the fair achieve its goal — improving community health, one neighborhood at a time.
“Alaska is more and more diverse, and the example is this district,” he said.