CHAA, partners host first annual Multicultural Health and Wellness Fair


In collaboration with more than 15 agencies, CHAA and its partners hosted the first annual Multicultural Health and Wellness Fair at Oakland’s Clinton Park on December 4, 2010. With more than 150 attendees, the fair featured primary health screenings, wellness activities and multicultural performances, and provided interpretation in 16 languages to make the event accessible to a diverse community audience.

Despite the rainy and overcast day, turnout was good. In addition to preventive services such as flu and T-Dap vaccinations and screenings for blood pressure, BMI, and dental screenings, attendees also were able to get free consultation from doctors, public health nurses, and trainee volunteers, and attend workshops on health topics picked for their relevance to attending communities.

Workshops included “Lifestyle Modification for a Healthier Life” by Daw Yee Yee Htwe and a Hepatitis B session presented by the United States Burmese Medical Association.

Kathy Ahoy, Public Health Nurse of Alameda County and co-founder of the Street Level Health Project, was encouraged by the teamwork and spirit shown by the medical staff and volunteers who performed health screenings for more than 100 individuals.

“While the logistics could be a bit challenging at times, it was heartwarming to see those at varying stages of their medical careers unite for a common cause,” Ahoy said. “We had everyone from undergraduate and graduate students to established professionals, and it was nice to make a difference both for patients and those with health career aspirations.”

Dede Dolma of the Tibetan Association of Northern California (TANC) served as one such medical volunteer, helping a registered nurse with triage duties.

“My favorite part of the day was just being able to serve the community and being able to screen people at risk of many diseases at an early stage,” Dolma said.” “I’m thankful we can intervene at an important time or at least attempt to connect uninsured clients with health services.”

While the health services were popular, the day included alternative health activities designed to expose attendees to ways to support health and well-being, and diverse cultural entertainment. Before or after receiving immunizations, community members had the option to partake in a variety of fun wellness activities, including tai chi with Mr. G, yoga with Mitch Hall, acupressure from Til Gurung, and massage from a Thai therapist. During lunch, attendees enjoyed traditional Thai, Nepali, and Mongolian dances, magic with Stephen Bartz, a poetry slam by a Cambodian Youth Speaks member, and an address from Pat Kernighan, councilmember for Alameda County District 2.

Olivia Byler, Coordinator of the East Bay Refugee Forum, was not only happy to see the mingling of various ethnicities within the Asian community at the event, but also the intersection of other cultures living in the immediate neighborhoods.

“It was beautiful to witness the attendees receiving services, enjoying performances, and eating food,” Byler said. “Perhaps the most memorable moment of the day for me was realizing that while we were carrying on a multi-cultural health and wellness fair in this community park, the local Latino community was celebrating a religious festival, including a parade right down International in front of our venue. It was very satisfying to see all of these cultures collide.”

“One notable challenge we had was a lack of funding to organize this big community event; however, we overcame it and all the partner agencies pulled together to make it very successful,” Angelo Ercia, CHAA Community Health Specialist, said. “I would like to see the event held in a bigger location in the future so we can serve more people and expand the wellness activities and entertainment. I also look forward to restructuring the workshops so they can be more interactive.”

For its first year, CHAA and its partners are happy with the event’s outcome and looks forward to ways of building on the successes and lessons learned from this health fair in years to come.

“We are encouraged by the positive feedback we’ve received about the fair, and hope this first one serves as a model for greater collaboration and building cross-community relationships,” said CHAA’s Associate Director, Sean Kirkpatrick. “We feel confident that integrating health resources with activities, information, entertainment and alternative approaches to promoting wellness are key to engaging communities, recognizing that wellbeing is best supported holistically.”