Changes in store for health fair

After 33 years as a sponsor of a popular health fair that drew thousands every year for low-cost blood analyses and other health screenings, Mesa County is cutting the cord with the 9Health organization.

Instead, the county’s annual Grand Valley Health Fair will be entirely local — planned by a volunteer committee of various community organizations, with resources that will stay on this side of the Continental Divide.

“We want this to be a community event. Because it’s an important issue — the community’s health,” said Sue Kiser, a division director with the Mesa County Health Department.

Kiser said the fair typically draws 3,000 to 4,000 people every year, many of whom came for the inexpensive blood work. Planners hope to reach even more people with the new incarnation of the fair.

“We do know that the most important value the community appreciates are the low-cost blood tests and free screenings — and we’re planning on continuing with that model,” Kiser said.

She added that during fairs in the past, about $200,000 in laboratory fees went to the Front Range. Now, they’ll contract with St. Mary’s for all the blood screenings.

“That’s $200,000 of lab work that is going to stay local, in Mesa County,” Kiser said.

The new fair, tentatively scheduled for late summer or early fall, is expected to expand to include even more health care screenings and programs, in an effort to take a more “holistic” approach, Kiser said.

In addition to the screenings previously offered — body mass index measurements, pulmonary function tests, diabetes testing, vision and dental screenings — the new fair is expected to also fold in some new aspects.

Mental health screenings could be offered via Colorado West Mental Health, and Kiser said she hoped to have information booths about the impending federal health reforms and possibly computer kiosks to help people negotiate the state health insurance exchange that is in the works.

Aside from the time of year, the venue of the health fair also is likely to change. Previous fairs were held at Central High School, as the facility was donated for the effort, but a new location appears in the offing.

“If we truly want to make this available to the uninsured and the underinsured, we need to move it to a central location that is more accessible by public transportation,” Kiser said, mentioning Two Rivers Convention Center as a possible new site for the fair.

Translators are also planned in an effort to reach the Spanish-speaking community.

Specific dates and locations have yet to be determined, but Kiser said to stay tuned as their plans become more formalized in the next few months.


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