CB 12’s first health fair draws crowds of seniors

By Sadef Ali Kully

Southeast Queens senior residents scurried in from the cold to the inaugural Health Fair organized by Community Board 12 last month at the Christ Church International Ministries in Jamaica.

Area health care professionals offered community members access to extensive medical services, administering blood pressure, glaucoma, hearing and eye tests and providing essential screenings for breast cancer, asthma and diabetes to participants.

“Although my heart is heavy from the weight of my mother’s loss, I take comfort in offering members of the community I hold dear the opportunity to receive critically important screenings and services,” said state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Hollis), whose mother recently succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 95, as he pressed the importance preventative care.

In Queens, ,more than 390,000 residents are 60 and over, which is more than a quarter of the city’s total senior population of 1.3 million, according to 2013 data from the NYC Department for the Aging.

“There are so many concerns and lot of it has to do with the lack of information on resources to maintain healthy lifestyle for seniors,” said Celeste James, a Community Board 12 member, who spearheaded the Health Fair.

The inaugural health fair was sponsored by Queens Community Board 12, Comrie , U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Council Members Daneek Miller (D-Jamaica), Ruben Wills (D-Ozone Park) and Rory I. Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Pathmark Supermarket.

“We have issued a challenge to make southeast Queens the healthiest community in the city and today’s health fair is consistent with that vision,” said Miller.

Professionals also provided counseling on healthy eating options, low-cost health plans, and a number of medical conditions.

“I threw together some spinach and avocado, added papaya, banana, and organic chocolate chips – they were amazed,” said Carolyn Aird, a certified holistic health coach, who was armed with a blender and baskets of vegetables and fruits to make smoothies for visitors.

The Feb. 19 event had experts in medical, dental, vision, holistic wellness, personal fitness, mental health, hygiene and nutrition available for questions and concerns.

“I look for challenges with circulation and gastric problems, which is very common in seniors,” said Shai Hankins, a reflexologist from the African Holistic Health Chapter of New York, who provided foot oil massages to participants.

For seniors, their health, resources and safety were a major concern for their well-being.

“It is important that I am safe, but it is just as important that I control my blood pressure,” said Jessie Carter, 76, a resident of the Allen Senior Citizen Housing in Jamaica.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.