ONEONTA, Ala. (BP)–Good health and nutrition were highlighted in a festive atmosphere — with face painting, balloons and music by a mariachi band — during a Hispanic health fair in Oneonta, Ala.
Pat Hart, professor of nutrition with Samford University — its school of nursing sponsored the outreach — said many Hispanics are hesitant about seeking healthcare because, among other things, they do not understand the system and do not speak the language.
“There is definitely a language barrier for them in terms of their health,” she said.
The health fair, held on the lawn of the old health department building Sept. 23 in Oneonta, also provided biblical and literacy lessons.
Healthcare education focused on treatment as well as preventive medicine. Nutrition information, such as the food guide pyramid and American Cancer Association brochures, and cookbooks were provided in Spanish.
“My husband and I were missionaries in Venezuela,” Hart recounted, “and when we came back to the United States, I wondered how I was going to use my Spanish.
“I found that reason here,” she said. “The Lord is doing amazing things with the Spanish population.”
Members from the Friendship Baptist Association’s First Baptist Church, Gallant, helped with the fair by entertaining children while their parents received important information.
The association organized activities for the children while witnessing to the adults.
“We’re trying to focus on the physical and spiritual health of the children and adults,” said Ashleigh Lee, an Acteens leader at First Baptist and Spanish teacher at Ashville High School. “Through face painting, we’re trying to get the children involved and let them have fun. …
“On the health side, we’ve been able to hand out hygiene packets, and those packets include Bible verses to cultivate spiritual nutrition,” Lee said.
Also available at the health fair was a demonstration on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
“We are here to raise awareness among this population,” said Donchelle Scott, a nurse practitioner student at Samford. “We are teaching CPR for all age groups. Parents especially want to know how to perform CPR on their children.”
Addressing the language barrier was Amanda Gunter with the Blount County Literacy Council. She shared information about Project Apprende, which targets Hispanic high school students who tend to drop out of school to get jobs.
“I’m such an advocate for people reading,” she said. “We want to help the students and adults learn English so they can better understand their new world.
“We need volunteers to teach English as a second language, help the students who have dropped out of school get their GED and teach computer classes,” Gunter noted.
She was pleased with the turnout by Hispanics wanting to know more about the program, noting, “The attendees are interested in opening their lives and bettering themselves in this country.”
McGill is a writer for The Alabama Baptist newsjournal.