This weekend’s West Philadelphia Health Fair offered salsa dancing, games — and legal checkups.
This past Saturday morning, the School of Nursing hosted its fifth annual West Philadelphia Health Fair in conjunction with the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. In the span of a few hours, the fair offered health care education and clinical checkups as well as an inviting atmosphere for hundreds of attendees in the area.
Rashika Kaushik, Penn Nursing graduate student and chief coordinator of the West Philadelphia Health Fair, has been leading the fair for the past two years.
The fair has been held in the gymnasium of Mastery Charter School for five years. With 50 coordinators, representation from all 12 graduate schools and a record-breaking 90 volunteers by her side, Kaushik was able to extend the fair’s services to include exercise and legal checkup stations for the first time.
The exercise segment provided attendees a space to dance with salsa instructors and snack on nutritious foods. Attendees then moved onto another station that incorporated vital health care information into games such as Twister and Jeopardy.
After all the fun and games, Nursing students took vital signs of the participants so they could receive visual, physical and oral hygiene exams from other graduate students.
Cynthia Clark, Mastery Charter School social worker and community engagement manager, worked with GAPSA to start the fair years ago.
She explained that she found the students and their parents were not going to see doctors or clinicians as needed because they did not have health insurance. She wanted to break down these health care barriers.
Clark said she wants students to prioritize their health starting at a young age so that they feel comfortable seeking advice and treatment despite any personal or financial obstacles.
This year’s fair also offered legal aid from two attorneys and 10 Penn Law students, Kaushik said. Attendees could bring up any legal questions, and there were different tables for issues ranging from landlord-tenant disputes to questions about public benefits.
Third-year Penn Law student John Parron was on a general diagnosis team, helping individuals find long-term solutions to their legal issues by connecting them to community legal services as well as government resources.
“I thought this was another great opportunity to use the skills that I learned in the [Penn Law] Civil Practice Clinic to help people in the West Philly community,” he said, adding that the The Center for Public Service at Penn Law connected him to the fair.
Attendees also received physical handbooks as they checked in, and volunteers filled in their health information as they went through the fair. Kaushik said these handbooks can be useful for future visits to clinics and as proof of a physical for job applications and youth sports registration.
In line with the event’s mission of increasing awareness of health care resources, all of the attendees were given a list of health care organizations in the area that take blood pressure as well as all Planned Parenthoods in Philadelphia.
With the largest turn-out of Penn student volunteers since the fair began, Clark highlighted the positive impact Penn has had on families in the area.
“Penn students are amazing,” Clark said. “They are so friendly and families really feel comfortable sharing their concerns with them.”
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