Free health services at fair

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— The arrival of spring means it is time for Routt County's annual check-up.

About 500 people are expected to attend the 9Health Fair, sponsored by Yampa Valley Medical Center. The free fair is from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

"It's an annual tradition in Routt County," said Christine McKelvie, YVMC director of public relations. "It's a great way for people to get blood tests or health information."

About 100 people, including physicians and health professionals, volunteer their time at the event. Many Routt County residents see the fair as an opportunity to get basic tests done at a low cost, but it is also an opportunity for people who do not have health insurance or a physician to get some medical services, McKelvie said.

About 46 million Americans were without health insurance in 2004, according to the National Coalition of Health Care. There were 8.3 million children without health insurance.

"We would never want to say this takes the place of a physician, because it doesn't, but for some very basic health information and tests, this is great," McKelvie said. "If anyone is looking for a health care bargain, this is it."

The blood tests are the major draw at the health fair, said Lisa Bankard, coordinator of the fair and YVMC wellness and community education director.

Blood chemistry tests cost $30, prostate specific antigen tests are $25 and blood count tests are $15. New this year is a blood type test for $20. Knowing your blood type is helpful in case you need blood or want to donate, Bankard said.

"Last year, we had quite a few phone calls from people asking if we offered it," Bankard said. "In talking to people, there are a lot of people who don't know what their blood type is."

People should discuss the test results with their caregivers, McKelvie said. For accurate results, people who plan on getting a blood test should fast for 12 hours before having blood drawn.

Everything else at the fair is free including checking height, weight, vision, hearing, blood pressure, lung function, balance, and oral and foot health.

One of the more popular places at the heath fair is the skin check station, which will be staffed by two physicians who will check over visible skin for abnormalities and signs of melanoma.

"With us living at altitude and in the sun, it's definitely something to stay on top of," Bankard said.

People attending the fair also have access to information on Alzheimer's disease, autism, stress management, health nutrition, emergency preparedness and quitting tobacco use.

The 9Health Fair is organized and sponsored by YVMC, but the program has been held throughout Colorado communities since 1979. It is the largest program of its kind in the United States.

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