News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 16, 2013

Holiday health

Fair spotlights wellness as the commotion of winter festivities takes off

TERRE HAUTE — Rose Chambers of Terre Haute stopped smoking several years ago, breaking a long-standing habit. Unfortunately, two deaths in her family in a short period drove her to return to the habit, she said.

Now she wants to quit, again.

“I got some help with quitting smoking,” said Chambers, one of hundreds of people attending Friday’s Minority Health Coalition of Vigo County health fair at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. Chambers attends each year, she said, adding that vendors there provided her with new tools for improving her health.

And that’s just what the organizers of the fair had in mind.

The goal of the fair, said organizer Ashley Sanders, is to eliminate health disparities among minorities through improved knowledge and education.

“We want to make sure everyone knows their status, their numbers,” Sanders said. The Vigo County Health Department was providing flu shots and Harrison College was providing blood pressure and blood sugar tests, to name just two vendors at the day-long event, which was free of charge.

Life expectancy is typically reduced for lower-income Americans as is health insurance coverage. Fully a quarter of households with incomes less than $25,000 were uninsured in 2012, compared to just 8 percent for households with incomes more than $75,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

There are also health problems associated with race. For example, blacks, native Americans and native Alaskans are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes than Caucasians. And infants born to black women are up to three times as likely to die than babies born to women of other ethnic or racial groups, according to data published by the National Conference of State Legislatures,

The approaching holidays can also pose a health threat. Many people are either very happy or very sad during this time of year, said Dinah Farrington, executive director of the Minority Health Coalition of Vigo County. As a result, they often respond by over eating, drinking, smoking or engaging in other unhealthy behaviors.

One agency at the fair that can direct people to help 24 hours a day is Connect 2 Help, which can be reached by dialing 211. The organization provides information about food, counseling, health care, clothing, employment, shelter, support groups parenting and more.

“We have a lot of people in our community that other people can go to for help, especially those with lower incomes,” said Sandra Watkins of Terre Haute, who was attending the fair. One of the vendors helped her realize her sister, who is uninsured, can receive health insurance, she said.

Several local health insurance providers were also at the fair assisting people with the new Affordable Care Act. “Yes, it’s been busy,” said Becky Klingele, west central outreach consultant for MDwise, a not-for-profit organization that helps at-risk populations secure health care.

The Minority Health Coalition plans another health fair early next year, Sanders said. For more information on the coalition, visit their website at www.mhcvc.org or call 812-234-8713.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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