ISL puts on first annual Health Fair

By ELLE PFEFFER | April 11, 2013

Groups from across Baltimore and different Hopkins divisions came together Sunday as participants in the first annual Hop Into Health fair held on the Homewood campus. Sponsored by JHU International Service Learning (ISL), the event sought to connect the wealth of health resources at Hopkins and beyond with Baltimore city’s low- and middle-income residents.

“We’re in a good position right now to make a difference to our relationship with the rest of the Baltimore community. I think a lot can be done to bolster that,” senior Ashley Choi, president of the Hopkins chapter of ISL, said.

ISL is a non-governmental organization that sends volunteers abroad to work in clinics for underserved populations.

Choi, a pre-medical student who has been on these trips herself, expressed her disappointment that the skills and passion developed abroad often do not translate to local action.

The desire for a continuation of this type of service inspired her to lead the organization of the first Hop Into Health fair.

“You have people living four blocks down from campus that are going through the same hardships as people we find abroad. So we were thinking, ‘okay we see the shift in medicine from curative to preventive, what can we do to help these people that are living right around us?’” Choi said.

ISL wanted to use collaboration among different organizations to reach out to their target audience and provide concrete information about lifestyle changes for healthier living.

Of the 21 participating groups in the fair, most were from the Homewood campus, but representatives from the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Baltimore City Health Department attended as well.

The Maryland Women, Infants & Children Program (WIC), which provides assistance to pregnant women, new mothers and children under five, also set up an informational display. WIC’s services include breastfeeding support, nutritional counseling, referrals and checks for healthy food for families with qualifying incomes.

There are 12 WIC sites in Baltimore, one of which is situated at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Patricia Bell-Waddy, the coordinator for the program at the Bloomberg School, received the invitation to present at the fair through the state WIC office.

“We are looking forward to this being a continued effort,” she said.

Bell-Waddy had earlier shared nutritional information with a family already on the WIC program that had come by.

The fair was not limited to strictly medicals organizations. Groups from the Homewood campus ranged from Campus Kitchen and A Place to Talk to Nu Rho Psi and Students for Environmental Action.

“We also felt that it’s necessary to reach out to non-health related groups so that we get a diverse perspective,” Choi said.

The members of ISL reached out to local communities through flyer-ing at clinics, churches and schools to encourage people to attend the fair.

The 10 neighborhoods they chose to target where those specified in President Ronald Daniels’ Ten by Twenty development plan announced last November.

Jocelyn, a Baltimore resident who works in the area, brought her family to the fair after seeing a flier.

“A lot of people think that nicotine can cause lung cancer but it’s actually the tar,” Jocelyn said, following her visit to the Baltimore City Health Department’s table about the risks of smoking. “The tar is the addictive part of the cigarettes. I never knew that.”

Jocelyn was also interested to learn about tips for easy healthy cooking, for example using brown rice instead of white.

“Health cooking in general just has a lot of stigmatism attached to it,” Jocelyn said.

Despite the relatively modest turnout, Choi was encouraged by the future prospects for the fair, which will become an annual event.

“As we do this every year, people will know more about it and when we continue our campus collaboration, we can achieve something bigger and we can set this as a tradition so we can connect with the Baltimore community,” Choi said.

 

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