Community Health Fair Inspires Medical Professionals to Explore School-Based Health Centers
Getting sports physicals for all five of her children is usually a huge undertaking for Shirley Sagapolu. “We normally go to a free clinic, since the physicals aren’t covered by Medicare,” Sagapolu said, “but they only do two a day so we have to make several trips and take time off work to get all the kids taken care of.” Shirley’s complicated process was streamlined this year thanks to a community Health Fair offering free sports physicals and wellness checks for all Tacoma Public School students. “For us to be able to come here and get this all done at once is a lot easier.”
With locations at Lincoln High School and Baker Middle School, the Health Fair brought together a volunteer crew of doctors, nurses, dentists, and other healthcare professionals who were able to serve over 350 students all in one afternoon. While several of the partnering organizations had collaborated to host similar events at individual school sites in the past, this was the first time it was offered to students district wide.
“Accessing healthcare resources is a great need for local students”, said Sheri Mitchell, MultiCare Health System Community Outreach Liaison, “so we decided this is a service we needed to bring to them.” Opening the Health Fair up to the whole district also helped build a stronger sense of community among families. “It’s something we all have to do so we might as well do it at the same time, remarked local mom, Tionna Jones. “The kids are seeing friends they haven’t seen over the summer and I see faces from around the community so it’s a great event.”
“You can’t have a Whole Child without making sure that they’re healthy. A student’s ability to learn can be directly impacted by health issues, so if we can find that out in advance we can figure out how to help.”
In addition to offering sports physicals, volunteers form partnering organizations provided dental and vision screenings, support for insurance applications, and access to free immunizations like TDaP, HPV9 and MCV4 which are required for middle school and high school attendance. According to event co-organizer Fahren Johnson, GTCF Expanded Learning Program Manager, addressing these needs is a key part component of our community’s Whole Child partnership. “You can’t have a Whole Child without making sure that they’re healthy. A student’s ability to learn can be directly impacted by health issues, so if we can find that out in advance we can figure out how to help. We can’t take care of everything, but we can catch things early, point families to additional resources, and help promote prevention and good habits which students will hopefully carry on as adults.”
Seeing so many families benefit from the Health Fair inspired participating providers to dream about how they might better serve local students in the future. According to Dr. Enrique Leon,”…the goal would be to try to get school-based health centers in each high school and ideally each middle school too. Studies show that schools with school-based health centers have higher graduation rates, lower drop out rates, and better success in the 13th year, so we’d love to see that.”
“the goal would be to try to get school-based health centers in each high school and ideally each middle school too”
In the meantime, plans to offer the district-wide Health Fair again next year are already under way. To find out more about supporting events like this, contact GTCF’s Philanthropy team at (253) 383-5622.
Volunteer Providers: Center for Healthy Living (CHL), Tacoma Family Medicine (TFM), Puyallup Tribal Health Clinic (PTHC), Community Health Care (CHC), Ebony Nurses Association of Tacoma (ENAOT), Tacoma Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD)