Rotary Health Fair gets bigger, better

Hard to imagine, but in its 29th year the Rotary Health Fair just keeps improving.

“We are full, we are excited, we have new exhibitors,” said fair coordinator Sharon Minsch of Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary.

This year’s theme is “It’s Your Life — Take a Day To Be Well.” More than 60 exhibitors will be on hand with information and screenings to help area residents do just that. The fair is at the Homer High School commons between 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s barely even a day,” said Derotha Ferraro, spokesperson for South Peninsula Hospital. “You can go to the fair and take advantage of everything it has to offer and leave within two hours. For that tiny bit of time and, in some cases, no money, you can really make a difference for your health.”

Admission is free; however, donations are being requested for the Homer Community Food Pantry.

“Their needs are huge,” said Minsch.

This year’s fair includes a blend of new exhibitors and faithful providers from years past that are offering new information and screenings.

“We’ve got WomenHeart of the Central Peninsula, prostate cancer survivors (see related story, page 16), and Ohlson Mt. Mineral Springs has donated all the water and is giving free samples,” said Minsch.

The Kachemak Bay Water Trail Association will be on hand with information on how rowing, kayaking and canoeing can improve your strength and flexibility. There’ll be tests to determine body strength, hand-strength tests and fitness tests. Representatives from ICAN, International Cesarean Awareness Network, will have information available on support offered by that organization. Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska will offer memory screenings. The Lions Club will do vision testing — please bring your old glasses to be recycled for others to use — and blood can be donated to the Blood Bank of the Kenai Peninsula.

As in past years, information on Vitamin D will be available “which is important in these northern latitudes,” said Minsch.

With the Homer City Council’s recently passed ban on certain types of plastic bags going into effect in January, Rotary is providing cloth bags for fair visitors to collect and take home information the fair has available.

“We used to hand out big plastic bags from the hospital, but no more,” said Minsch. “We’ll have health fair bags, one per family.”

Rotary also has something new to show off this year: a shelter box, containing necessities for a family of 10 to survive in the wake of a disaster. Begun in the United Kingdom, shelter boxes contain a shelter designed to withstand extreme weather systems, bedding, a water purification system, various tools and more.

According to Rotarian Will Files, shelter boxes have been used in more than 200 natural and manmade disasters in 75 countries, including the 2011 earthquake in Japan.    

“We’re going to have one set up at the fair for people to look at, to show one of our international projects,” said Minsch.

All the exhibitors provide door prizes and the big door prize of the day is a $250 energy certificate. Childcare is available, thanks to Katie Koester. Live music will be performed by the Seaside Singers at 9:30 a.m. and by the Homer Ukulele Society at 10:30 a.m.

This year’s fair began gaining momentum Oct. 22 with the $40 comprehensive blood analysis and other tests available at South Peninsula Hospital lab.

The same analysis and tests also will be available at the fair Saturday on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Walk-ins are welcome,” said Minsch.

Payment is by cash or check, with checks made to Rotary.

No food or drink, except for water, should be consumed 10-12 hours before the test. Prescription medication should be taken and diabetics should not fast. Other tests available for additional costs include prostate-specific antigen,
thyroid-stimulating hormone, C-reactive protein, Vitamin D and blood type tests.

One new test is the A1C, measuring average blood glucose control for the past two to three months.

Results of lab work done prior to Saturday will be available at the fair. Health care professionals also will be on hand to help explain results.

The fair is an opportunity to meet the hospital’s new OB/GYN doctor, Hillary Seger; new family practice doctor, Sarah Roberts; and new surgeon, Greg Hough. 

The first health fair almost 30 years ago was held in a hallway of the hospital.

“We’ve built it up pretty well, but we’re always open to input, suggestions and ideas about how to make it better and what people want to see,” said Minsch.

Planning for the annual event takes place all year, with the organizing committee beginning weekly meetings in August. 

“We typically see 1,000 people come through the door,” said Minsch. “It’s great for exhibitors to be face-to-face with so many people.

• To make an appointment for a comprehensive blood analysis at South Peninsula Hospital, visit or call the Health Fair Hotline at 299-0735.

• To make an appointment to donate blood, call
(907) 222-5630.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.