Health & Wellness

South Orange Health Fair Offers Testing, Information

John Festa, South Orange's health officer, says the fair allows people to discover health problems they didn't know they had. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
The Lions Club eye mobile is parked at the South Orange Health Fair. Credits: Lindsay Ireland

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Volunteers and physicians alike manned the pamphlet-lined tables Saturday at the South Orange firehouse during the village’s eighth annual Health Fair, waiting to assist patients in need.

The brainchild of John Festa, South Orange’s health officer, the health fair offers free annual examinations to all who attend. This year, Festa said he reached out to and partnered with 15 different physicians and vendors from St. Barnabas Medical Center and various other healthcare programs.

“The goal (of the fair) is to promote healthcare education in South Orange,” Festa said.

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Nathalie Bailey of South Orange said she attended the health fair to learn more about special testing and examinations offered for the older residents.

The most important benefit of the fair, according to Festa, is that residents who don’t have healthcare or a primary care physician have access to all type of health examinations at no charge.

 “The fair allows people to discover health issues they didn’t know they had,” Festa said.

Brenda Dundas of Orange said she overheard someone talking about the Health Fair on the bus and decided to attend.

“There are lots of doctors here and I can get examined for anything free of charge,” Dundas said. “I’m really glad I came.”

Festa said he examines death certificates of citizens to determine peaks and patterns in cause of death that will help him in choosing which exams to offer each year.

This year, free information and testing was offered for the following: spinal analysis, glucose and cholesterol, blood pressure, hearing, vision, injury prevention, nutritional information, vertigo and inner ear problems, osteoporosis screening, lead screening and child identification kits.

The health fair offers a wide variety of exams because “the fair is not geared toward any one person or group,” according to Festa. “It is for everyone.”

At one of the tables, St. Barnabas offered free information about its Balance Program, geared toward those with vertigo and balance disorder.

“A lot of people are unaware this type of program even exists,” said Marian Hightower, navigator of the Balance Program. “We want people to know there is help.”

The health fair, which, according to Festa sees approximately 150-250 attendees per year, boasts a unique feature—mobile testing centers. Among these was a large RV for blood testing and the Lions Club International’s “eye mobile,” which offers vision, eye pressure and glaucoma exams.

The “eye mobile” has been gracing the South Orange Health fair with its presence for about four years, according to Joe Kika, a Lions Club member.

“We sometimes have physicians to do the exams, but when we don’t, members (of the club) can volunteer to screen patients, then make the appropriate recommendations or refer the patient to a specific doctor,” Kevin Kosobucki of Sayreville’s Lions Club said.

Kosobucki said using the “eye mobile” is a great way to catch disease or health problems early on.

Other tables at the fair offered pamphlets with details on various types of cancer, along with information about Women, Infants and Children or WIC. Attendees could also speak with various members of the South Orange Domestic Violence Response team.

The health fair, hosted by South Orange’s Health Department, took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the village firehouse.

The reporter is a student participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.

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