Underserved Populations Focus of Countywide Health Fair

By Bob Highfill

What started as an immunization campaign in Mexico has grown into one of the most important and anticipated health fairs in San Joaquin County.

The San Joaquin General Hospital Community Wellness Event focuses on the well-being of underserved populations throughout the county. The fifth annual community health fair and celebration of wellness is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on October 26 at the hospital’s campus in French Camp. The event presented by San Joaquin General Hospital and San Joaquin County Clinics offers comprehensive services, including blood pressure checks, body mass testing, vision and hearing tests, diabetes tests and eye exams by Spanish speaking and other language medical professionals to serve the diverse communities of San Joaquin County.

The wellness event also includes free flu shots, while supplies last, as well as education and information about various services and follow-ups. The San Joaquin County Clinics Family Medicine and Healthy Beginnings Clinics will be available to see patients who need to see a physician provider the same day from the screening areas. Also, car seat checks will be offered by trained San Joaquin General car seat technicians. Organizers hope to draw 1,000 individuals and families to the health fair.

“One of the things that I personally believe is really critical is families and individuals know there are resources for them, even if they aren’t insured,” said Joan Singson with San Joaquin County Clinics. “They might be eligible for programs that will impact their health, such as resources for food, shelter, dental services and community services that assist families. So, this fair has turned into a health and resources fair because one doesn’t work well without the other.”

Singson said San Joaquin General, as a community hospital, focuses on preventive care. Its goal is to help patients find and stay on a healthy path, so their condition doesn’t deteriorate to the point where they need to visit an emergency room. The county wellness event is an important effort to help ensure the health of the county’s diverse communities and connect people with the resources they need.

“There are some services, such as with young children, in the state of California that are available,” Singson said. “The event is four hours long, but it’s a way to get people into that door and educate them on their options, and most importantly, making people feel there are services they can access they would feel comfortable accessing. With the world we live in now, there is a lot of fear and stigma that people who need help don’t get it.” Singson said the county has stepped up its outreach efforts like never before to the Latino community, including migrant farm workers, as well as immigrants and migrant workers from other parts of the world. Shuttle service will be available to and from the larger migrant farm worker camps in the county.

This year, the event’s theme is “Healthy Families, Healthy Communities.”

“We want to make sure it’s something where people know health is for all,” Singson said.

San Joaquin General Hospital has worked with the larger Binational Health Week, which has evolved into one of the largest mobilization efforts in the Americas to improve the health and well-being of underserved Latino populations that live in the United States, Canada and other countries. During Binational Health Week and throughout the month of October, federal, state and local government agencies, community-based organizations and thousands of volunteers join forces to conduct a series of health promotion and health education activities including workshops, insurance referrals, vaccinations and medical screenings. Singson said this year the county is using the term “multinational health,” because, “We’re seeing all sorts of borders, whether they’re southern, northern or across the pond.”

The first Binational Health Week occurred in October 2001 as the result of a successful vaccination campaign in Mexico that significantly increased immunization rates. Modesto resident Dr. Alvaro Garza, then the first Chief of the California Office of Binational Border Health with the California Department of Public Health, partnered with the lead of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, who had high-level connections within the government of Mexico, to bring services to Latinos in California. Dr. Garza recruited county health departments and community-based partners and selected San Joaquin County among the first seven counties to host health fair events. Dr. Garza said the health fairs have expanded from binational to multinational.

“They’ve been very successful,” said Dr. Garza, who is retired now after working from 2014-2018 as the Health Officer in San Joaquin County. “It’s a great event. Ideally, we would not do such things just one month a year but throughout the year. But it’s certainly better than nothing.” San Joaquin County has focused on filling gaps in care.

“With San Joaquin County’s activities, they were focusing mainly on closing gaps in care, not just immunization but other health needs in the community,” Singson said. “We’ve always had a large migrant worker population, so integral to that was migrant worker health.

“It became a health-focused movement serving the needs basically of Mexicans living on this side of the border,” said Singson, “and expanded to those of Latino descent. That was the beginning of it.”

Binational Health Week’s primary partners have been the Secretariats of Health and Foreign Affairs of Mexico, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several departments of health, the Council of Mexican Federations in North America, and the Health Initiative of the Americas through the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. In 2017, Binational Health Week conducted 1,768 health-related events in 14 countries and benefitted 219,410 people through 245,843 health consultations.

For some, the San Joaquin General Hospital Community Wellness Event is their primary source for health services and health education.

The entire community is urged to attend the Community Wellness Event on October 26, especially families, “at-risk” children, youth and adults, and uninsured individuals. San Joaquin County Clinic’s participation is an important component with the other community wellness event health fairs in San Joaquin County in October. The goal is to help educate healthy living and provide health care accessibility to the county.

Entertainment will be on-site in a family-friendly environment. Here are health fairs scheduled in October in San Joaquin County:

Sunday, Oct. 13 – YMCA Family Fall Festival, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium
Saturday, Oct. 19 – Medicare Health Fair, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., University of the Pacific’s School of Pharmacy
Saturday, Oct. 26 – San Joaquin General Hospital Community Wellness Event, San Joaquin General Hospital, French Camp, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 27 – Day of the Farmworker Fiesta, Hale Park, Lodi, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

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