HCC to host 5th fair on community health

AMANDA CUDA

Connecticut Post, Article Last Updated: 04/02/2008 11:31:50 PM EDT

BRIDGEPORT — When people think about protecting the environment, they usually concentrate on protecting our natural resources, conserving energy or preserving the integrity of the planet in general.

But the environment affects us in a much deeper and more intimate way — our health. Though it's not something we always think about, our health is hugely connected to our environment, said Linda Griffin, health services coordinator at Housatonic Community College.

There are countless ways that the way we live affects the way we feel physically, Griffin said. For instance, she said, "Do you live along the I-95 corridor? Are you inhaling fumes from fossil fuel sources? Do you smoke? What are you eating? It's really endless."

On Monday, Housatonic and the City of Bridgeport Department of Health and Social Services will co-sponsor the fifth annual free Community Health Fair. The theme of the fair, held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Housatonic, 900 Lafayette Blvd., is "Living Green: Our Health and Our Environment." There will be a whole section of the fair dedicated to the health-environment connection.

Environmentally themed vendors at the fair include the Fairfield County Environmental Justice Network, the Bridgeport Parks and Recreation Department, MetroPool (which provides free commuter services) and Housatonic's new student group Friends of the Environment.

Vendors will address a variety of topics, including air pollution. That's a particularly pertinent topic in Bridgeport, said Valerie Sorrentino, deputy director of the city health and social services department. She said Bridgeport has one of the highest childhood asthma rates in the state, which could be linked to air pollution. Lead poisoning is another important local environmental issue, Sorrentino said, because there is so much older housing in the city.

The fair will address many of these topics, as well as general health issues.

In addition to the environmental groups, the health fair will offer a variety of screenings and tests, including bone density, blood pressure, cholesterol and glaucoma screenings, and HIV testing.

There also will be information on lead poisoning, nutrition, breast cancer, and other health topics. Sorrentino said many of the city's uninsured residents are reliant on health fairs for health tests that they would typically receive from a physician. "They can't afford to pay to have these services," she said.

The fairs also serve to educate people and inspire them to take better care of themselves, Sorrentino said. "A lot of times, people go to health fairs and find out they have a problem," she said. "This motivates them to go a doctor to seek treatment."

The health fair will take place in Housatonic's main atrium. For more information, contact Griffin at 332-5062.