Attending Walnut Street Community Health Fair a healthy choice

August 03, 2013|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Dr. Health E. Hound and Jordan Meade hula hoop at the Walnut Street Community Health Fair on Saturday.
By Ric Dugan / Staff Photographer

Francesca Wilson was hesitant four years ago when a friend invited her to attend the Walnut Street Community Health Fair.

It was being held on a Saturday, and after a long workweek, the Hagerstown woman had been looking forward to relaxing at home.

But Wilson agreed to go along anyway, and spent several hours visiting a variety of stations that offered free screenings, including breast exams.

“I had always been taught that annual mammograms were essential to good health,” said Wilson, 56. “But it had been some time since I had been tested, so I signed up.”

The results, she admitted, caught her by surprise.

She had breast cancer, but it was detected in the very early stages.

“I thank my friend almost every day for pushing me to go with her that year,” Wilson said. “If I hadn’t, who knows what I would be dealing with today.”

Wilson said she has made a promise to take better care of herself. And she has kept that promise by making regular doctor appointments and continuing to attend the health fairs offered each year by the Walnut Street Community Health Center in downtown Hagerstown.

On Saturday morning, she had her blood pressure and cholesterol checked and picked up a handful of pamphlets from several community health organizations.

Wilson was among more than 400 people expected to attend the health fair, which this year marked its 10th anniversary.

In addition to screenings — which ranged from diabetes and dental to depression/anxiety — the event included information booths with representatives from about 24 area health and community organizations. There also were children’s activities, food and refreshments, and giveaways.

According to Kimberly Murdaugh, the center’s executive director, the health fair typically coincides with National Community Health Center Week.

“But we’re a week early this year,” she said. “Still, it’s a way to recognize the 1,200 health centers in this country that provide services to more than 2 million people. Here in Hagerstown, about 7,000 people are served annually.”

The center offers a variety of medical, dental, mental health and supportive services, she said. Individuals with and without health insurance are accepted.

Murdaugh said the health fair is an opportunity to provide screenings at no cost to the community. It also is a way to introduce the center “to those who are not familiar with who we are and what we do.”

The event has continued to be popular, she noted, because of the relaxed atmosphere.

“You have the opportunity to look around before you make an appointment, ask questions, meet the staff,” she said. “It’s very informal, and I think people like that.”

Murdaugh said the screenings also involve a follow-up, with information being forwarded to patients’ physicians. If they don’t have a doctor, they still will receive the results.

In addition to screenings and health-related activities, Murdaugh said 6,000 pounds of corn, beans and potatoes were bagged by volunteers and distributed during the fair.

In addition to promoting good health, “this was an opportunity for us to provide healthy food as well,” she said.

In 18 months, Murdaugh said the center will move to a new location on Cleveland Avenue.

“It’s an opportunity to expand our services, and gives us more room to grow,” she said. “It also was important that we stay in Hagerstown, which is a great place to be.”

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