This weekend in South L.A., a summer health fair will provide free vaccines and services to prepare students for the start of a new school year. Starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, residents will be able to receive diabetes screenings, get help with medical insurance enrollment and learn about local healthcare services. Kids and teens enrolled in seventh through 12th grade, will be eligible for Tdap vaccinations -- the booster shot immunization for whooping cough that's now required for all students in these grades.
This will be the second year for "Back to School the Healthy Way," which drew as many as 800 South L.A. residents last year for its inaugural fair. The event is being put on by St. John's Well Child and Family Center, along with the Service Employees International Union - United Healthcare Workers West.
"My wife and I have been deeply touched by the neighborhood hospitality and the positive responses in South L.A.," said union member and fair volunteer, Antonio Burgos, in a statement. "It is moving to listen to people's stories about their healthcare experiences -- and to know that we're doing something to help people get the care and coverage they and their families need."
According to Community Health Councils, a health advocacy non-profit, South L.A. has "the highest rates of chronic disease in California."
Nicole Vick, a health educator for the L.A. County Department of Public Health, told OnCentral earlier this year that South L.A. has "some of the worst health outcomes in the county, especially when it comes to things like chronic diseases." She said this community has a disproportionate number of cases of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and certain sexually-transmitted diseases.
Jim Mangia, president and CEO of St. John's, said a major function of the event is to help promote a "preventative culture" in South L.A. He said that even though the community "doesn't have a lot of infrastructure to support prevention" -- such as its lack of supermarkets for fresh produce and shortage of parks for exercise opportunities -- it's still possible to advocate and teach residents about healthy living.
Mangia described Saturday's event as "like a big block party," which in addition to wellness education will include various giveaways, art projects, exercise and dancing.
The health fair goes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday, August 18. It's located at the St. John's Well Child & Family Center at 808 W. 58th St., Los Angeles, CA 90037.