Crowds pack health fair Saturday
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"I'm just here to get checked out for my bone density and my cholesterol," said Galen Bitz. "And I want to get a flu shot." He was sitting in a chair at the Holiday Village Mall. A bevy of health professionals and volunteers were sitting at tables at the front of the mall's community center .The professionals were conducting tests for people to see if their blood sugar, cholesterol, balance ability and bone density were in good shape. "I talked to some people about health issues," Bitz said. "That is always important." A row behind him, Shay Thompson, a Montana State University-Northern student, said he too came for health reasons. "My friend is a nursing student. She told me to come down and get my finger poked," he said. Many of the people in the room were older, but Thompson thought he was at the right age to start watching his health. "I'm 25. It's time to get on top of things," he said. Bitz, Thompson and hundreds of other people flocked to the mall Saturday for the Havre Health & Safety Fair, sponsored by the mall and Northern Montana Health Care. According to the people at the booths set up all over the mall, it was a record turnout. There was a steady stream of people all day. Jenipher Hatch, a health aide with the Hill County Health Department, said people were stopping all day to get information on the Women, Infants and Chi ldren Program, Fami ly Planning and other programs the department offered information about. A good number of people stopped to get their H1N1 immunization, she said. "The nasal spray was popular, especially with kids," she said. Shots tend to scare young people, she said, so the spray was easier to take. "The only thing is, you can't sneeze for half an hour after you take the Spray," she said. So people with nasal congestion are advised to get the shots. ••• At the Full Circle Benefits Enrollment Center booth, Connie LaSalle, the project coordinator, said their dummy proved to be the most popular aspect of the booth. The dummy had a set of dentures people could put in and take out, a heart they could listen to and a catheter that could be inserted. "The kids loved it," she said. The point was to let people know how they can help older adults — usually loved ones — who can't care for themselves as well as they once did. The center hopes to help older people as they plan their futures and help younger people help parents and other friends and relatives as they grow older. Classes will be offered to help people care for older relatives — or to prepare for a career of helping the aging population. It's a topic that is becoming very popular, she said. The state provided her with lots of information to give to the public, she said. The health fair started at 10 a.m., and by 11 a.m., much of the material was gone. "It was like a rummage sale," she said. ••• At the RSVP volunteer booth, Allison Hecker, the program's director, was surrounded by senior volunteers ready to spread the message of the value of volunteering. "We've already signed some people up," she said. "(Volunteering) makes me happy, and i t makes me heal thy," said Jan Allenmeier, who volunteers at the senior center's information desk. "I meet such great people." ••• The Heartbeat Pregnancy Center offers women with unexpected pregnancies a helping hand, said Debra Friede, a volunteer at the booth. The center provides clothes, adoption options and advice. ••• When a person looks through the set of glasses at the Hill County Rethinking Drinking, he sees the world as if he had just had a few beers. People were asked to put on the glasses and try throwing a ball at a wall hanging just a few feet away. If they hit the center of the wall hanging, that means they got home safely. If they hit the outer part of the poster, they had just gotten in an accident or killed a family. "We have had (just one) person who got home safely," said Gina Dahl, Hill County Attorney and a board member for Rethinking Drinking, formerly known as the Montana Change Project. Twelve-year-old Marshall Hatch, according to the test, would have been involved in a serious accident. "It was weird," he said, after he took the glasses off. "Everything didn't look the same." "Now having seen what you saw with these glasses, you wouldn't drive after drinking, would you?" Dahl asked. He assured her he was too young to drink, and he would never drink and drive. ••• At the Hill County Buckle-Up Montana booth, people were given little blue elephants they could, place in their car wi th the wo rds ins c r ibed: "Remember, buckle up every time." Kids loved the little animals, said Samantha Hitchens, the project coordinator. The group reminds people to buckle their seat belts every time they drive. There was a receptive response during the fair, she said. "People told me that they were in accidents, and their lives were saved because they were wearing seat belts," she said. Visitors were reminded that they could get child safety restraints at the Di s t r i c t IV Huma n Re s o u r c e s Development Council for a donation, she said. The group is trying to convince lawmakers to pass stricter laws about seat belts and child seats. Montana is the only state that does not allow officers to issue tickets for failure to use child seats — the driver has to be stopped for some other reason. "Some people think it is a personal decision," she said. "But I think if you are 2 years old, it's hard to make a personal decision."