Research Article

Role of community health fairs in providing health services, improving health of rural residents

Trina Aguirre*, Justine Jobman, Ann Koehler, Wendy Wells and Leeza Struwe

Published: 11 May, 2020 | Volume 4 - Issue 1 | Pages: 042-045

Introduction: Obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg m-2) is epidemic globally and is associated with increased risk for a wide range of physical and mental health comorbidities. This is a particular concern for rural residents who have a greater rate of obesity than urban residents, but are disadvantaged in obtaining care because of a shortage of health care professionals. Community health fairs provide an opportunity for rural residents to receive health care services and education at reduced or no cost. Therefore, this study explored the role of community health fairs for providing health services and improving the health of residents in a rural community where obesity is a serious health concern.

Methods: This study involved a retrospective longitudinal analysis of data collected during community health fairs conducted in a rural western Nebraska, USA community during 2014, 2015, and 2016 (n = 83). The Planned Approach to Community Health (PATCH) framework was used to target health education in this rural community. This approach involved 1. Mobilizing the community (via health fairs), 2. Collecting and organizing data (from consented attendees), 3. Selecting health priorities (obesity), 4. Developing a comprehensive intervention (nutrition and physical activity education), and 5. Evaluating the effectiveness of the framework (declines in measures of obesity over time). Analyses characterized BMI, percent body fat, visceral fat, and BP and explored differences between genders. The sample was recruited by advertising with flyers for health fairs at the College of Nursing. Most booths provided printouts of results for participants in order for them to keep and track their health information. Once potential participants arrived at the health fair site, there were asked if they would like to participate in the study via an invitation letter. They could then decline or sign the consent.

Results: Percent body fat and visceral fat level differed between genders (p = < .001 and .001, respectively). Mean body fat levels (women 39.4%, men 28.8%) were unhealthy. Mean visceral fat level was unhealthy in men (16), but healthy in women (10). BMI and systolic and diastolic blood pressure did not differ between genders. Mean BMI was 31 kg m-2; 33% of participants were overweight, 44% were obese. Mean systolic and diastolic BP were 134 and 78 mg Hg, respectively. Most participants were hypertensive (systolic: men 57%, women 32%; diastolic: men 24%, women 7%) or prehypertensive (systolic: men 21%, women 39%; diastolic: men and women 36%).

Conclusion: Obesity and high BP were common in this rural population, supporting the need for effective education and intervention efforts to address these health issues. Health fairs provide a manner in which to reach community persons needing referrals to local clinics, mental health providers and physicians. Education provided at such events is valuable as well and may in fact be the only health care contact they receive. Though community health fairs provide an economical way for individuals to receive screenings and health information, few men participated and few individuals attended in multiple years. The lack of repeat attendees prevented assessment of the efficacy of the education intervention. Means of enhancing participation, particularly by men and previous attendees, need to be explored. Repeatedly attending health fairs enables participants to monitor their progress, seek physical and mental health screenings and discuss any health concerns and helps researchers assess the efficacy of interventions. 

Read Full Article HTML DOI: 10.29328/journal.apmh.1001017 Cite this Article Read Full Article PDF


Blood pressure; Body mass index; Body composition; Community health fairs; Hypertension; Obesity; Percent body fat; Rural health; Mental health


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