SO Health Fair covers its bases

Health Department event provides screenings, information, a good time

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The village held its annual health fair at the South Orange Firehouse on Sept. 7, providing free health screenings for residents where the firetrucks are usually parked. The health fair was the 13th put on by South Orange Health Officer John Festa, who said the event is a chance for residents who might not otherwise have access to health care to receive screenings for bone density, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and hearing.

“Health education is part of the overall department,” Festa said in an interview with the News-Record at the event. “We can cover a lot of bases here. And they’re all free, so it helps if you don’t have insurance.”

The New Jersey Poison Control Center set up a display showing the difference between certain pills and candy, which can appear similar. Natalie Mendez, who works at the center, said the organization is on call 24/7 to answer questions on its hotline, 800-222-1222.

“It’s answered by doctors, nurses and pharmacists,” Mendez said of the hotline in an interview with the News-Record at the event. “They’ll help with information about lead and carbon monoxide that could be in a home. They also talk about other information, like labels. If something like Gatorade doesn’t have a label on it, it’s considered a poison because you technically don’t know what’s in it.”

St. Barnabas nurses Rebecca Calello, Briana Marcantonio and Winifred Easterling were scanning residents’ feet for bone density issues, which is required for women older than 45 and men older than 60. Calello said the screening results would be sent to residents’ doctors, if necessary.

Festa said the health fair is helpful to residents although the same organizations attend the event each year.

“Even though sometimes the organizations here are the same, people get older every year,” he said.

Photos by Amanda Valentovic