Penn offers free health screenings for West Philadelphia community

Despite a growing number of people covered by health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act, routine health care remains difficult to access for many individuals in the United States, including right here in Philadelphia.

An alliance of Penn graduate students from across the University are hoping to make a dent in the problem by providing health services to West Philadelphia adults and children who are underserved by medical care.

On Saturday, March 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the West Philadelphia Health Fair, organized by the School of Nursing’s Graduate Student Organization (GSO), will offer free medical, dental, and vision assessments, and mental health education at Mastery Charter-Harrity Elementary School, 5601 Christian St. The third annual fair will involve more than 80 graduate student volunteers from Penn Nursing as well as the Perelman School of Medicine, the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2), and the Sayre Health Center.

The past few years we have seen up to 300 people in the community, and we are hoping for a similar number this year,” says Helen Kwan, a Penn Nursing graduate student who is co-coordinating the health fair, along with fellow students Tracy Kwan, Melissa Burke, and Kylee Deterding.

Nursing and medical students will check vital signs and offer physical assessments and glaucoma screenings. Dental students will conduct oral cancer screenings, dental exams, and fluoride treatments. SP2 students will perform mental wellness screenings and guide attendees in stress management techniques, such as deep breathing and basic forms of cognitive behavioral therapy.

Education will be a large component of the fair. Penn students will distribute information about recommendations for routine adult preventive care, such as colonoscopies and mammograms. Students will also give a talk on women’s health issues, offering information about issues such as effective long-term contraception, breast exams, and management of menopause. A Zumba class will give participants an opportunity to get active.

If they choose to, attendees can register with the Sayre Health Center to receive follow-up care should any health problems surface during the screenings.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have insurance or have financial impediments to seeing a primary care physician, and who may have underlying conditions that will only get worse without care,” Kwan says. “We are hoping to connect them with resources to get the help they need.”

The GSO is currently recruiting graduate students to assist at the fair. Volunteers can register here.

Attendees interested in getting a health screen can call Cynthia Clark, a social worker at Harrity Elementary who is helping coordinate the fair, at 267-322-0302. Walk-ins are also welcome.

West Philadelphia Health Fair