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Spring Into Health this Weekend at a Family Festival at Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center

Kids have their face painted at the Spring Into Health Festival in Exposition Park

"Celebrate Health!" is the main message of the the Spring Into Health Festival that will be held this weekend at Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event is more a health "festival" than "fair," said North Area Neighborhood Development Council (NANDC) representative Yelba Castellon. It is an opportunity for the community to celebrate healthy living by participating in activities related to health, fitness, and the environment, in a family-oriented, fun setting.

This year, about 40 local community organizations will be present, offering a variety of services. In the area of fitness, the 24th St. Theater will be offering yoga classes while the Southern California Tennis Association will offer tennis lessons. Organizations like Community Services Unlimited, Revolution Foods, Tree People, and the L.A. Food Bank will offer help with gardening (and offering plants people can take home), nutrition, and cooking. There will be entertainment, an Easter Egg Hunt, and arts and crafts, as well as a raffle for bikes, scooters, and skateboards.

The NANDC tried to ensure that most of the organizations were very local, said Castellon, so that there would be continuity after the festival. If people found a particular clinic or organization that met their some of their health needs, they would easily be able to follow up and visit them after the festival.

A patient has her blood pressure checked at the Spring Into Health Festival. photo: Kim Kumpart

Opportunities for health care that will be available, include dental sealants for kids and screenings for anemia, blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, and HIV.  These booths will  help deal with the challenge of access to care in lower-income neighborhoods.

More importantly, the care clinics on site will present opportunities for people to receive care in a non-threatening environment. Many people from the area, particularly those in the Latino community, have a distrust of the medical community, said Castellon, a medical student herself. They may feel they do not receive adequate care when they try to access it, they may not feel it is their place to ask questions,  they may not know which questions to ask, or they may have a different cultural approach to health that is at odds with what their medical professional suggests.

Even if there was greater access for people, they might not take advantage of it. Having open clinics in environments such as the one planned for Saturday help put everyone at ease and make it easier for some trust to be built.

It's a good experience for the medical students, too, said Castellon. They need to understand the context from which their patients come in order to treat them appropriately and in ways that the patient will respond to. It is easier to see that context in festival setting when the "patient" has their whole family in tow. In short, open air health clinics can be a positive learning experience for all involved.

About 300 families, or 800 people came through the festival last year. The organizers are hoping to match or beat that turn-out this year. For more information on the festival please visit the NANDC.

The organizers of the Festival are the NANDC, the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, and the Department of Parks and Recreation The event will be held at Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, 3916 South Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90062.

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