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Big Cypress health fair offers passport to better living

Health Fair03BIG CYPRESS — Many of the nearly 300 people who streamed through the Big Cypress Health Fair April 17 at Junior Cypress Rodeo Arena probably thought they knew everything about the path to a healthy life, said Edna McDuffie, community outreach coordinator for the Seminole Health Department.

“But we just need to remind everyone, every once in a while, to keep on track,” McDuffie said.

Hosted by the Health Department, the fair featured about 35 booths manned by tribal department representatives, health professionals or health-related vendors. Each table highlighted a different health topic by providing educational literature, activities and giveaways.

Passports to health – sheets of paper that listed booths – were provided at the fair’s entrance. Participants who visited at least 15 booths were eligible for a special thank you card from Health Director Connie Whidden and various surprise gifts.

Similar health fairs are planned for Brighton (May 28) and Hollywood (June 9).

McDuffie said the Big Cypress visitor turnout was huge but that the vendor turnout was “awesomely unexpected.”

“We were very happy to have to add tables at the last minute,” McDuffie said.

Health issues addressed ranged from prenatal care thanks to Healthy Start Southwest Florida to financial health courtesy of the Tribe’s Native Learning Center (NLC).

“It’s as simple as this: If you can learn to handle your bills, you will have less worry and less stress. We know stress can cause health problems,” said Wilma Noah, of NLC.

Free blood pressure screenings, blood sugar screenings, and height and weight screenings were available. McDuffie said past health fairs have revealed problems for several participants.

“People came back to me saying they found out they were pre-diabetic. That’s what it is all about to us because that puts a person on prevention,” McDuffie said.

A handful of booths put the spotlight on foods as vehicles toward well-being.

Lance Vaz, a nutritionist from Brighton, handed out free Greek yogurt and dried fruit parfaits. Steven Alvarado and Worndretta Gibson, of the Big Cypress Boys & Girls Club, let visitors prepare their own trail snack bags with granola, dark chocolate, nuts and other healthy ingredients.

Children from Ahfachkee School were treated to free apples hand delivered to each from Disney characters Elsa and Olaf.

And just in case visitors had too much fill of trail mix, parfaits or apples, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki staff members, Roberto Luque, a geospacial analyst, and Eric Griffis, the Museum’s oral history coordinator, were on-site to promote the Museum’s 1.2-mile boardwalk that can be used for sightseeing and exercise.

“We have the boardwalk and at the end of it a native, traditional garden – and we need volunteers. People can get a workout and do something good for the community,” Griffis said.