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'Healthy Children, Healthy Community'
North Carolina Fair Is Model for Closing Gaps in Health

Several NIH'ers recently celebrated the success of "Healthy Children, Healthy Communities," a children's health fair held June 8 at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Durham, N.C. The purpose of the effort was to educate people from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds about ways to prevent disease and improve their overall well-being by developing good hygiene and eating habits and otherwise conducting healthy lifestyles.

"This was a wonderful event and really exceeded our expectations," said Dr. Marian Johnson-Thompson, NIEHS director of education and biomedical research development and event organizer. "The focus was on addressing obesity, which is very important to NIH. The children loved the sessions, were extremely involved and it helped that we had wonderful, wonderful giveaways."

Dr. Marian Johnson-Thompson of NIEHS, event organizer, greets Durham City Councilman Howard Clement, who offered remarks at the fair's opening assembly.

Developed as a model project that any school, church, club or community-based organization could follow, the event was a collaborative effort involving staff and funding contributions from local, state and federal governments as well as other private and non-profit health organizations. Health information brochures and giveaway items, which are popular with children as well as adults, were provided by several NIH institutes. The fair capitalized on having a ready-made target audience, inviting children between the ages of 6-12 who had enrolled in area summer Bible school programs at several other local churches and encouraging their parents, grandparents, caretakers and instructors to participate in various capacities as well.

Youngsters at the fair show off their Milk Matters booklets, which have proven popular with children.

"The age groups selected were great," noted Kay Johnson Graham, EEO officer and minority outreach coordinator at NIDCD and NINR, who helped plan the fair and also gave a talk on noise and hearing loss. "These kids were bright and eager to learn. They proved that they could absorb information quickly, process it well and pass it on to others effectively. These age groups certainly appear to be ones in which intervention can play a critical role. There were a lot of interactive games for the kids. Most seemed very eager and asked good questions on health."

Keynote speaker Mary Ann Black (l) of Duke University chats with an N.C. State presenter.

The fair opened with a keynote address by Mary Ann E. Black, associate vice president for community relations at Duke University Health System, who discussed diet, nutrition and improving health.

An NIAAA-supported public health vehicle from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Traveling Science Laboratory, served as a tool to educate children and families on drugs and alcohol abuse, and how scientists and public health experts conduct research leading to better treatments for people with addictions and substance abuse disorders. In addition, several presenters offered 15-minute talks such as "Germs Make Me Sick," "Color Me Healthy," "Healthy Hearing and Noise" and "Healthy Movements and Healthy Bodies." An exercise tent was erected to merge fun and games with fitness routines. Fitness instructors from the Durham YMCA were also on hand.

Dr. Joan Packenham of NIEHS and young assistants make fruit smoothies.

"All of the presenters volunteered and it showed what kind of resources are available for free," Johnson-Thompson concluded. "Many groups had specific children's programs (police department, fire department, YMCA, Destiny Science Van, Delta SEE Project, NC Cooperative Extension Services, etc.) and they are extremely eager to contribute to activities like these. The NIEHS staff were wonderful and demonstrated to the local community that not only are we concerned, but that we can immediately do something about it. This represented NIH translation at its best."

The UNC Traveling Science Laboratory, supported by an NIAAA supplement, makes a stop.

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