Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 6:46 PM on Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Take charge of your health

Fair helps by providing low-cost screenings, lots of info

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photo provided

Visitors walk through Nolan the Colon, a simulation of the human colon. The exhibit will be at the health fair.

Discounted health screenings, lots of activities for young and old, more than 60 exhibitors with information on a wide range of health topics and an opportunity to help the Homer Community Food Pantry.

That's a lot for a homegrown health fair, but the 28th annual Rotary Health Fair, sponsored by Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary in cooperation with South Peninsula Hospital, has even more to offer: Nolan the Colon, a 28-foot inflatable colon making a one-day visit to raise colon awareness.

"You can walk through and see all the stages of colon cancer, from a healthy colon to benign polyps, pre-cancerous polyps, cancer in all its stages and moving outside the colon," said Mary Fries, health educator with South Peninsula Hospital. "It's very graphic."

A popular teaching aid that has traveled around the state, Nolan the Colon will be accompanied to Saturday's fair by Judith Muller of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage. Nolan's travel is being paid for with the help of a cancer education grant Fries received. Muller will have additional educational items; Fries and Dr. Todd Boling will be available to answer questions and provide a computerized cancer risk profiling for anyone interested in knowing their risk in developing colon cancer.

"And then, for anyone who walks through the colon and does the educational tour, we'll have a voucher for $400 off a colonoscopy," said Fries, adding the regular cost of a colonoscopy at the hospital is approximately $5,000.

"We're certainly not looking at drumming up cancer business, but drumming up the colonoscopy and prevention business. We're doing this because we want people to have this test."

The fair will be held at the Homer High School from 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. This year's theme is "It's your life, take a day to be well." To help southern peninsula residents do just that, the fair once again offers the $35 wellness panel, a comprehensive blood analysis. Regular cost for the tests included in the panel total approximately $240.

"So, that's quite a savings," said Fries.

The procedure can be done at the hospital lab before Saturday, with results available at the fair, or it can be done at the fair. To schedule a time, visit online at www.sphosp.org.

Walk-ins at the fair on Saturday also are welcome, although fair organizer Sharon Minsch, of Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary, encouraged arriving a little later in the morning to avoid the rush. No food or drink, only water, should be consumed 10-12 hours prior to the test. Prescribed medication should be taken and diabetics should not fast.

"We'll still be able to accommodate everyone that shows up," said Sharon Minsch, who has coordinated the fair for six years. "If you don't have an appointment ... come in a little later and there won't be a problem with lines."

Additional tests available include:

• Prostate screening, $30;

• Thyroid screening, $30;

• Vitamin D levels, $60;

• Cardiac wellness screening, $40; and

• Blood type testing, $20.

"The blood type testing is new this year," said Minsch. "If you donate blood at the blood bank, they need the type, but so many people don't know what type they have."

For those who had the screenings done prior to the fair, health care professionals will be available on Saturday to help understand the results.

"Obviously, you'll want to consult your physician, but there will be several people there, starting at 8:30 a.m., who can answer your questions," said Minsch. "Every year we have people discover prostate cancer, diabetes, other diseases just through the simple, affordable blood tests. You can save yourself a lot of money when you catch this stuff early."

A growing number of local small business owners are offering the screenings to their employees.

"We do care about our employees' health, but just can't swing a full insurance policy on Homer's economy," said Kate Mitchell of NOMAR. This is the second year Mitchell has offered this for NOMAR's 14 employees. "We can do this to try to help them stay healthy. It's just one of those little benefits that we factor in at NOMAR to help our employees."

Shelly Erickson of Home Run Oil also has chosen to pick up the tab for her 10 employees.

"I thought it would be a nice thing to do for them," said Erickson. "When you're in a small business, you do anything you can for your employees."

Admission to the fair is free and childcare is provided. Visitors are encouraged to bring a food item to be donated to the Homer Community Food Pantry. The Lions Club also will be collecting used eyeglasses. The blood bank will be accepting donations of blood. To schedule an appointment, call 235-0338.

Exhibitors will be offering door prize drawings throughout the day. The grand-prize give-away is a $250 energy certificate. Exhibitors' booths will fill the high school commons and gym, offering additional information and screenings.

Health-related demonstrations have been scheduled.

"The more information we can provide people about health, the better off we are," said Minsch.

For more information, call the Health Fair Hotline at 399-4039 or visit the South Peninsula Hospital website at www.sphosp.org.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.