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Women 4 Wellness set for May 15; women encouraged to attend

By Adriana Fehrs

The Women for Wellness will have its 6th annual health fair on May 15 at the Joe McDonald Health & Fitness Center on SKC Campus. The health fair is aimed at raising awareness on health issues in the community such as HIV/AIDS. (Photo courtesy of Lesli Anderson)The Women for Wellness will have its 6th annual health fair on May 15 at the Joe McDonald Health & Fitness Center on SKC Campus. The health fair is aimed at raising awareness on health issues in the community such as HIV/AIDS. (Photo courtesy of Lesli Anderson)

PABLO — The Center for Prevention & Wellness at SKC will proudly host the sixth annual Women 4 Wellness (W4W) health fair on Thursday, May 15 at the Joe McDonald Health & Fitness Center on the Salish Kootenai College Campus from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Niki Graham, Director of the program, encourages native women to attend, in hopes of boosting the percentage of female tribal members that participate in health screenings.

In 2009, Graham traveled to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington D.C. to obtain a grant titled ‘In Community Spirit.’ The grant focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness with support for a large community event.

Of all the screenings available at the 2013 Women for Wellness health fair, 152 women chose the opportunity to get breast exams. (Photo courtesy of Niki Graham)Of all the screenings available at the 2013 Women for Wellness health fair, 152 women chose the opportunity to get breast exams. (Photo courtesy of Niki Graham)

With the funding, the Center for Prevention and Wellness orchestrated a one-day event designed to increase health awareness and health behaviors among women of the Flathead Indian Reservation and Lake County. The event focuses on health education and disease prevention by offering free health screenings and information designed specifically for women. Graham says, “We want to destigmatize issues with health, like visiting about HIV/AIDS and reproductive health and we’ve got to talk about the consequences of lack of education. We can be a healthier people.”

The event includes a variety of vendors. In the past, there has been a mixture of booths at the health fair, from Arbonne makeup, jewelry, to mammogram screenings. Graham says, “We focus on women’s health issues; not just physical, but also mental health. At the end of the day, what matters is if you feel great, and you are comfortable in your own skin.”

Last year’s Women for Wellness health fair experienced 1,280 participants with 127 vendors. Niki Graham expects more vendors and participants at this year’s W4W health fair. (Photo courtesy of Lesli Anderson)Last year’s Women for Wellness health fair experienced 1,280 participants with 127 vendors. Niki Graham expects more vendors and participants at this year’s W4W health fair. (Photo courtesy of Lesli Anderson)

Last year 1,280 individuals and 127 vendors attended the health fair. This year, Graham predicts that there will be a larger crowd, with 120 to 140 vendors. Fifty percent of the attendees categorized themselves as American Native/Alaskan Native. Graham says, “the fair is open for anyone to come, and we really encourage more Native American women to attend. Health, both physical, mental, and emotional is so important, and coming to the health fair can be a first step.”

Over the past five years, sponsors have contributed to the costs for the fair. Their foundational grant funding is coming to a close this August. The Center is honored by the support of numerous sponsors including tribal council and tribal health. Graham says, “Tribal support is critical to our survival. Our program efforts will continue beyond grant funding because of tribal support and I believe strongly that our people deserve this opportunity.” Graham stated. “We are blessed by the providers who join us each year and the contributions of the area hospitals and tribal health in providing screenings, evaluation and sometime follow up appointments at no charge.”

The theme for this years upcoming Women for Wellness health fair is ‘Can you give us five?’ The fair remains free to the public, but the Center for Prevention & Wellness is asking attendees to donate five dollars or five food items. All donations will go to local food banks. (Photo courtesy of Lesli Anderson)The theme for this years upcoming Women for Wellness health fair is ‘Can you give us five?’ The fair remains free to the public, but the Center for Prevention & Wellness is asking attendees to donate five dollars or five food items. All donations will go to local food banks. (Photo courtesy of Lesli Anderson)

“The cost of health care is continuing to rises, and while we do our best to keep the event free, we would like to ask participants to help area food banks.” Graham says, the theme for the 2014 W4W health fair is ‘Can you give us five?’ While entrance into the health fair is free, the health fair planning group is hoping that our community can make efforts to help others by either a five dollar monetary donation or five food items. All donations will go to local food banks as a ‘pay-it-forward’ act.

Again this year, tribal council has approved “Change of Duty” for employees to attend Women 4 Wellness with supervisor’s approval. Graham advises that participants consider planning for at least 2 hours to visit vendors, however additional time is necessary if you are seeking screening or testing.

For more information on the Women 4 Wellness health fair contact Niki Graham at the Center for Prevention & Wellness at (406) 275-4920, or email at niki_graham@skc.edu.

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