SCHENECTADY -- Drawn in by free food, music and giveaways, hundreds of residents explored available community healthcare resources at Thursday's HealthFest.
Attendees, made up of mostly families, circulated through the parking lot adjacent to the Hometown Health Centers, at 1044 State St., Thursday afternoon. The lot, located near the intersection of State Street and Brandywine Avenue, was filled with tents and booths of local healthcare providers for the 42nd year of the event, hosted by Hometown Health Centers.
“It’s our way of giving back to the community,” said Hometown Health Centers CEO Joe Gambino. “We’d like to think people would come out just to get their blood pressure checked, but we mix in entertainment as well.”
Hometown Health Centers provides comprehensive primary medical services to more than 60,000 patients each year at its State Street facility. It’s located just across the road from a recently opened mental health center run by Ellis Hospital.
Among organizations and companies offering information and screenings were Ellis Medicine, MVP Health Care, Fidelis Care, Planned Parenthood and Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
Each had a tent or table set up, staffed with representatives to answer questions or provide information about their services. For example, the college of pharmacy had advisers on hand to answer attendees' questions about their prescribed medications.
Visitors could get their blood pressure checked, could get tested for hepatitis C or get general advice on how to live a healthier life. They could also learn about setting up an appointment with a specialist, if needed, Gambino said.
The event had a light-hearted feel, with dance music blasting through speakers and kids waiting in line for cotton candy. A few steps away, volunteers were pulling hot dogs off a grill and doling them out to attendees.
A few event participants said they enjoyed the balance of useful information and entertainment, which made it feel like a worthwhile afternoon activity.
Spotted in the crowd was Eddie Polanco, a healthcare ambassador for Empower Health. He spoke in July about the program, which connects at-risk residents in the city with health and social services.
Empower Health is a collaboration between the City Mission of Schenectady, Alliance for Better Health, MVP Health Care and Hometown Health Centers.
Polanco, who typically seeks out residents at community events like the one Thursday, mingled with attendees, tablet in hand, and asked basic questions about their healthcare habits.
His effort paralleled the overall goal of the event, which Gambino said was to leave attendees with more knowledge about ways to be healthier. Ultimately, he’d like to see residents take part in preventative healthcare to avoid visits to the emergency room, he said.
“The goal is to give people an education to say, ‘If you did this, you’ll live a healthier life,’” Gambino said. “We hope they learn about something to help make them feel better or live better."