Children Learn Health Habits At Back To School Health Fair
By NICOLE FAY BARR
Correspondent

For the second year in a row, children learned healthy habits, from hand washing to nutrition, all while being entertained. A beautiful, sunny day made for a successful Back-To-School Health Fair, provided by the Lehigh Valley Health Network’s medical center, in the Weis Plaza, and held in the grassy area outside the facility.

Held on Aug. 17, the event was designed to reach out to families in the community, specifically children, to motivate them to care for their bodies, both physically and emotionally. “We, as a health-care unit, want to encourage our youth to maintain good, healthy habits,” explained Lisa Marie Halecky, community-relations specialist for Lehigh Valley Hospital, Hazleton.

Each child attending the dinosaur-themed health fair received a backpack filled with school supplies and other goodies, and were given all kinds of treats, from hotdogs, pizza, and popcorn, to prehistoric face painting and having their photos taken with “dinosaurs.” The also got the opportunity to try to activate a dunk tank, occupied by a few brave colleagues from the health center at Mountaintop.

“It was a great turnout,” Halecky related. “We had close to 150 attendees and we had a lot of partners helping us make the health fair successful.”

Twenty different information booths were set up for those who visited the health fair, from both health professionals with the Lehigh Valley facility, as well as others, such as EK Fitness, Weis, Luigi’s, Hazle Park Meats, and Wright Township’s police and fire departments.

Professionals from the imaging department at the Mountaintop facility had a skeleton on display, allowing children to learn about their bones through both the skeleton and through X-rays. The therapy and rehab team from the facility, which provides physical, occupational, and speech therapies there, had a booth labeled “Protect Your Brain.” Children and parents were educated about concussions, often from sports injuries, and the importance of wearing helmets.

At another station, some children learned about the importance of hand washing. They had their hands rubbed with a special lotion and placed inside a machine that shined ultraviolet light. By that light, they got to see the germs on their hands, often many. Those kids then got a chance to wash their hands thoroughly at a soap and water station, guided through a 10-step process, and they returned to the germ machine to see the difference.

New York Life Insurance handed out child-identification kits, to be used in the event a child goes missing. The kits, provided by the company for free, allows parents to have their children’s photos, fingerprints, and identity information burned onto a disc to be kept on file at home in case of emergency.

New this year, the Wright Township Volunteer Fire Department parked its truck outside the fair and firemen were on hand with local police, giving some awe-struck children a chance to meet their heroes. A highlight of the event for some children was the chance to learn how to use a fire extinguisher. Using a fire simulator, the participants were able to use the equipment to put out the flames. “That was a big hit,” Halecky said. “We had brothers and sisters competing, trying to put out the fire. It was really neat.”

Representatives of Pathway to Recovery, a Hazleton company which provides drug counseling and education services, was also at the health fair, giving information to children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Other booths included information on proper nutrition and heart health, both provided by professionals from the Lehigh Valley Health Center, and one for eye health, provided by Northeast Eye Institute. The state’s Department of Health, too, had a booth, giving parents and kids information on ticks and Lyme disease.

“The whole purpose was to have our younger generation understand their bodies and how to maintain their health,” Halecky went on, adding that encouraging parents to provide healthy meal options and opportunities for fitness in the home was also a goal of the health fair.

The health center in Mountaintop opened in the spring of 2016 and, since then, has been successful. Services offered there include family medicine, laboratory services, imaging, rehabilitation, obstetrics and gynecology, and cardiology. Halecky noted that the facility, in the Weis plaza, now has extended hours. It is open later on Tuesdays and Thursday, until 8 p. m.

She concluded of the health fair’s success, “Not only was it educational, but it allowed to children to have fun. They were provided with some great learning tools.”