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NIH Health Fair Attracts Record Number of Participants

By Terry LaMotte

NIH recently held its fourth free community health forum — Share the Health: An Exposition of Health Resources from NIH to Its Neighbors — and attracted more visitors than ever. Sponsored by the Office of Community Liaison, the event, held at the Natcher Conference Center, drew more than 700 people. Participants took part in free health seminars, vision and blood pressure screenings, children's activities, exhibits, tours, workshops and more. The purpose is to provide the latest NIH research and health information to its neighbors and local community members.

"As the world's leader in biomedical research, NIH is a great resource for the community to find out about the latest health and disease prevention research," said OCL director Dr. Tom Gallagher.

Participants said the forum was one of the best. "I have attended the last three events, and each just keeps getting better," said one attendee. Others agreed, calling the event a "great service" to the community. Some even boasted that the health seminars were "better than a visit to a doctor."

Share the Health participants collect the latest health information from NIH institutes.

Topics at the forum included osteoporosis, treating chronic pain, the safety of herbal medicine, sleep and sleep disorders, nutrient needs of older adults, women and depression, vitamins and age-related eye disease, advances in the treatment and prevention of stroke, quality of life at the end of life, managing chronic diseases, alcohol and the brain, cochlear implants, biodefense, racial and ethnic health disparities and oral complications of cancer therapy.

With exercise as a major theme, keynote speaker Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, stressed the importance of exercise at all ages of life. Providing examples and giving demonstrations, he explained how exercise is key to staying healthy. Participants also got expert guidance from exercise guru Margaret Richard, producer and host of PBS-TV's Body Electric program. She led visitors in several muscle-toning workshops.

OCL was determined to reach a broader audience than in years past. An activity center provided mini-workshops for children and teens. Kids had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Bones, the skeleton, teach about the importance of strong bones; hear life-sized puppets talk about asthma, diabetes and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder; and meet the National Capital Therapy dogs who provide patient therapy. "I see more and more young adults and youngsters attending — keep expanding your efforts to reach out to more age and ethnic groups," recommended one attendee.

Organizers have also made an effort to provide health information in Spanish. The event offered workshops on NIMH's Spanish Health Initiative and on the Spanish-language debut of NIH's consumer online health resource, MEDLINEplus. Spanish-speaking participants also learned how to access health information in both Spanish and English from NIH's web site.

NIA volunteers including Jeannine Mjoseth (l) demonstrate proper exercise techniques during Dr. Richard Hodes' keynote presentation.

Community members had their eyes and blood pressure checked; collected health information from exhibits by various institutes and local health-related organizations; and learned how to find reliable health information from the Internet. Everyone enjoyed visits with the "Mad Hatter" (a.k.a. Ed Rau of the NIH Environmental Protection Branch) who gave out mercury-free thermometers and explained why ridding our homes of mercury is important.

"By and large, people had a great time and learned a lot of useful information," said Gallagher. "NIH strives to be a good neighbor, and it is with events such as this that we can continue our commitment to community outreach."

If you missed the recent event, make plans to attend the next Share the Health day on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2003.

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