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Community Health Fair Overcomes Obstacle of COVID-19

Patti Singer

Participants in the 2019 Community Health Fair at the Boys and Girls Club. Provided by Rochester Jamaican Organization.

Oh, the irony of planning a health fair in a pandemic.

Just when people most need information on how to stay well, the biggest medical crisis in a century puts the whole thing in doubt.

“We started getting emails asking if it was going to happen,” said Joel Frater, president of the Rochester Jamaican Organization, one of the original groups behind the fair. “This is something our community looks forward to.”

For the past eight years, the fair has been held in the spring. This year, after a two-month delay, the event got bumped to summer and pushed outside.

The ninth annual Community Health Fair is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 15 in the parking lot of the Boys and Girls Club, 500 Genesee St.

“We want to be able to continue to provide this service and really enhance the educational component each and every year,” Frater said.

The founding Rochester Jamaican Organization and the Rochester West Indian Festival Organization are partnering with two groups to expand the medical expertise available to participants.

The Rochester Black Physicians Network and the Rochester Black Nurses Association have joined in what Frater said was intended to be a long-term collaboration.

“The partnership was well-received,” Frater said. “We have that history of organizing it and the traditional vendors and the tra ditional program for this. They’ve now brought the direct medical expertise. Now we’re dealing with doctors and nurses who are on the front lines dealing with a pandemic. They have colleagues who want to share their knowledge. We’ll have folks who can offer real-time advice.”

Yvette Conyers, who holds a doctorate in nursing and is president of the Rochester Black Nurses Association, said nurses play an important role in educating the community.

Dr. Linda Clark, president of the Black Physicians Network, said her group the nurses association had been planning a fair and learned it would fall on the same day. “We decided to collaborate and instead of having a million little health fairs, have a big impactful one. … We want to focus on something meaningful that will benefit more people.”

The fair will provide information about COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Testing will not be offered at the fair, but people can be referred to testing sites. Physicians also will stress the importance of routine and follow-up care during the pandemic and that offices are ensuring the safety of patients.

The fair takes a broad view of health and provides information about topics such as financial and mental wellness. But the focus is on men, particularly prostate health and erectile dysfunction. Clark said there will be discussions about underlying causes of ED, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and substance use.

There also will be health information targeted to boys and young men.

Frater said that while physical distancing and other COVID-19 precautions will be followed, the organizers are monitoring the status of the illness. He said attendees can check for updates at