Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Plenty of tips available for kids, families at health fair

People of all ages received information on how to live a healthy lifestyle Saturday during the Cascade County Health and Wellness Fair at Montana State University-Great Falls College of Technology.

Booths ranged from those offering tips on child nutrition to one representing local assisted-living facilities.

Allison Struber, student wellness coordinator for Great Falls Public Schools, manned the Action for Healthy Kids booth and gave out information about the school district's student wellness website.

"(Action for Healthy Kids) is a community organization that works basically for the health of kids in our community," Struber said.

She also had information promoting Screen-Free Week, April 18-24, including ideas for activities to do in place of watching TV or being on the computer.

Jen Cikanek promoted health for the whole family at the ImagineBALANCE booth, which showcased toxin-free household cleaners.

"The products most of us use everyday that we don't think twice about really do have harmful effects," Cikanek said. "We promote safe naturally derived and effective products."

Men and women of all ages stood in line Saturday for free bone density screenings offered by the Orthopedic Center for Montana. The painless screenings were done by placing a foot in a machine that used ultrasound waves to measure the density of the heel bone.

"It's a screening tool to check people for osteoporosis," said Nora Mazzolini, a registered nurse at the Orthopedic Center.

The test results showed whether a person had normal bone density, osteoporosis or were in a middle range and at risk for developing osteoporosis.

"We have a lot of people in this mid-range where they need to be doing something," Mazzolini said.

Along with the results, those who had the bone density screening received information about calcium supplements and how much calcium is found in certain foods. They also received information on exercises, such as walking, jogging and dancing, which can help improve bone density.

"Really what we're trying to do is prevent fractures," Mazzolini said.

Down the hall, licensed practical nursing students from MSU-Great Falls offered free blood pressure screenings.

It was a good chance for people to check their numbers and ask questions, nursing student Brittany Studeman said.

"A lot of people ... don't go to the doctor regularly," student Jesse Thompson said. "A lot of them are pretty surprised (by their blood pressure)."

The annual health fair, organized by the Cascade County Extension office, has been a way to get health-related information to the community for more than 30 years.

This year's fair featured 80 booths and nine speakers. It also offered immunizations for children and free HIV testing and counseling. More than 400 people had come through the doors by 1 p.m. — about halfway through the event — said Jona McNamee, Cascade County Extension family and consumer science agent.