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Friday, 08 January 2010 05:08

A Multicultural Health Fair

Health fairs have become a standard way of delivering basic health information and screening services to communities around the state. Three years ago, teachers and students at Sacramento City Adult Education decided to take the concept one step further.

They wanted to address two common problems with the usual heath fair model: Healthcare providers do not speak the attendees’ primary languages, and they do not understand the cultural context of the participants’ health issues. To overcome these challenges, the school planned its event from the outset as a Multicultural Health Fair that would service groups of Vietnamese, Chinese, Hmong, Spanish, and Russian-speaking adults.

Held through Sacramento City’s Florin Technology Education Center, this annual event is planned and organized by the district’s adult school teachers, staff, student council, and student body. And it is offered as an extension to the classroom study of an EL Civics health unit. The school held it’s third health fair in June, and CASAS has recognized the program as a Promising Practice.

Student-created surveys and in-language interviews conducted by students determine the workshop topics each year. Teachers and students then invite community agencies to present workshops on a variety of topics such as Tai Chi, childhood obesity, asthma, health insurance, breast health, health rights, effective discipline, risky behavior, and lead poisoning prevention.

“Our staff recognized the economic, cultural, and linguistic barriers that students face in accessing healthcare and created the health fair to help break down these barriers for students and their families,” says Mary Prather, principal, Sacramento City Adult Education. “By partnering with community-based organizations, our teachers were able to offer workshops and screenings by healthcare experts who understand the students’ cultures and speak their primary languages.”

The school was fortunate to have a facility in the heart of its district, which is easily accessible to many ESL adults, and allowed it to conduct the health fair on an adult school campus. Many partner organizations have donated items for the fair, including toothbrushes and toothpaste, pedometers, exercise rubber bands, bottled water, and healthy snacks.

When it came to the planning and execution of the Florin Technology Multicultural Health Fair, students played a critical role. In addition to creating surveys and conducting interviews, students contacted community agencies as well as their personal physicians, dentists, and optometrists and invited them to speak to event participants. On the day of the event, students set up classrooms for the workshops, and the Student Council greeted and ushered speakers to their assigned classrooms.

More than 170 students from 11 ESL, ABE, and GED classes attended last June’s Multicultural Health Fair. Medical assistant students from the Charles A. Jones Skills Center took blood pressure readings and tested blood glucose levels for 100 students. Students with levels outside the healthy range were advised to make follow-up appointments with their family physicians.

The results of Health Fair reach well beyond the services that are administered that day. An assessment of student achievement has shown that students in classes that participated in the health fair had higher average attendance hours (during a three-month period before, during, and after the health fair) than students in classes that did not participate in the health fair during the same three-month period. The average attendance hours were 138 and 117, respectively.

Even more important, as the result of a 2007 presentation on First Aid conducted by the Sacramento Fire Department, a Florin Technology ESL student knew what to do when a neighbor’s son appeared at her door with a serious gash on his arm. The student quickly covered the wound with a cloth and had the boy raise his arm above his head to stop the bleeding. The Sacramento Fire Department presented this student with a certificate for her quick action.