UFV Health fair targets downtown Chilliwack populations

Flu clinic, blood pressure information, and HIV/AIDS counselling included in Chilliwack health fair

UFV faculty member and RN JoAnne Nelmes (left) and UFV BA student Elise St. Martin share a laugh at the UFV Health ad Wellness Fair at UFV Five Corners in Chilliwack last Thursday.

UFV faculty member and RN JoAnne Nelmes (left) and UFV BA student Elise St. Martin share a laugh at the UFV Health ad Wellness Fair at UFV Five Corners in Chilliwack last Thursday.

Providing health care isn’t just about textbooks and medicine, it’s also about meeting patients and understanding where they are on their journey to better health.

And UFV’s nursing students had a chance to put both to the test last Thursday, offering both medicine and counsel to some of Chilliwack’s most vulnerable populations.

The university threw open the doors of its downtown campus and welcomed in the public to take advantage of a multitude of services, at their Health and Wellness Fair. There were flu shots for those who needed them, advice on gambling, nutritional support for families, information on strokes and blood pressure testing, and a private room set aside for HIV, AIDS and STI information and counselling.

Hannah MacDonald, director of UFV’s School of Health Studies, was among the faculty who watched over the fair and helped the students carry out their vision.

“Part of the objective of UFV is to work with the community,” she said “And how better to do that with a health fair?”

As the students head out into the world of medicine, they will encounter people from all walks of life, she said. So, getting out and meeting their future clients and patients face to face is an invaluable part of their education.

“This gives them exposure to a diversity of populations and is an opportunity to learn about reaching out to them, and really bringing services to people,” she say.

Chilliwack is a “very organized” community of service providers, MacDonald added, and they didn’t want to duplicate a service that was already available.

One example is an information booth set up by faculty member JoAnnes Nelmes. The 30-plus-year registered nurse has been studying chronic pain for the past few years, and has been eager to share what she’s learned.

Over the past year, she interviewed 20 volunteers and spent time with them to understand what they live through on a daily basis. Even with her experience as a health care provider and instructor, her interviewees taught her just how insidious chronic pain can be.

“Chronic pain is so prevalent,” she said, and affects every facet of life for those who suffer from it. Even more, chronic pain can lead to related problems, such as depression and isolation as the patient begins to disengage with friends and family.

Nelmes identified some common threads among the interviewees, she said. For example, those who have found a way to get back to living well, despite pain, often report strong caregiver support from their family physician.

Her chronic pain study was an ideal fit for the downtown health fair, as her hope was to let others know they aren’t alone in their pain. She enlisted the help of fourth year BA student Elise St. Martin for the visuals, designed to connect with the public.

This was the second Health and Wellness Fair at the Five Corners location, and they are already planning their next one. Their winter semester will include a fair focused on youth, and particularly at-risk youth.

Of the homeless count in Chilliwack, MacDonald said, 40 per cent are youth. More information on that fair will be available closer to the event.