Harvest Health Fair advocates for healthy lifestyle choices

For Vassar’s annual Harvest Health Fair, tables lined the edges of the College Center, with an organization or two stationed at each to promote their aspect of health, and  fall flag featuring a pumpkin and an acorn on the glass doors of the College Center invited those passing through to check out what was inside.

Vassar’s annual Harvest Health Fair, an event dedicated to promoting various aspects of student health, was held in the College Center on Wednesday, September 18. The event is sponsored by the Office of Health Education and features organizations within Vassar as well as outside groups.

With the flu season approaching, one thing several of the organizations present were pushing was the importance of getting a flu shot early.

Two wellness ambassadors from Rite Aid, representing both locations close to Vassar,—one on Main Street, and one on Hooker Avenue stressed the necessity of a flu shot for those taking part in dorm-style living. Flu shots are available to patrons at Rite Aid with no appointment necessary, and most types of insurance is accepted.

For a more conveniently located option, Vassar Health Services advertised their dates for administering flu shots on September 26 and October 10, as well as other services offered at Baldwin.

Many counseling organizations and groups committed to listening to victims violence were present to promote mental and emotional health, offering information about how someone in need could get help through their services. The Listening Center, Vassar Counseling Service, CARES, Domestic Violence Services, Sexual Assault Response Team and Sexual Assault Violence Prevention were all represented at the fair.

CARES is Vassar’s confidential peer hotline for personal violation issues, which covers a broad spectrum of things from concern for a friend or those who have experienced abuse.

CARES member Maddie Taterka ’14 said, “Having relationships is an important part of emotional and social health, whether those relationships are romantic or not.”

A goal of CARES is to help people have healthy relationships, and being at the Harvest Health Fair allowed them the opportunity to inform students about how they do that.

The Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention Program is under the Office of Health Education, the sponsor of the Harvest Health Fair. SAVP Coordinator

Elizabeth Shrock said regarding the program, “Prevention is key when we’re talking about how to lower things like sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.”

Being present at events like the Harvest Health Fair helps the SAVP to give information to students about how to intervene before a situation turns to sexual assault.

“There are faculty and staff who are able to provide 24 hour a day, seven day a week support,” said Shrock.

The SAVP, along with  the counseling groups that were present at the fair, all have the goal of making sure that students feel supported in times of crisis.

The two most prevalent infections in Duchess County are chlamydia and Lyme’s  disease—which explains why Duchess County Department of Health at the fair offering information on both safe sex and ticks, as well as how to act in an emergency.

Other types of sexual health were also represented, and many groups provided pamphlets on STDs, STIs and safer sex in general. Planned Parenthood, Hudson River Healthcare Community Health Center, DC Department of Health and CHOICE offered such information. Several tables provided condoms to promote safer sex as well as ways to get tested. The DC Department of Health promoted their free STD/STI screenings.

Planned Parenthood stressed that they are willing to help anyone get information on how to get coverage after the changes to healthcare on October 1.

There were also places that catered to the under- and uninsured. The Hudson River Community Health Center, which provides care primarily to the uninsured on a sliding scale, also acknowledged that things would be changing for them after October 1.

Though many of the groups present focused on a general area of health, some organizations were focused on something specific.

For example, Mended Hearts, an outside group that is Chapter 5 of the American Heart Association, was at the fair promoting heart health. The representative stressed that although heart health may not seem important to college students, any bad habits formed now can build up and later result in other health issues later in life.

ENT Allergy and Sleep educated about controlling allergies and healthy sleep. Instead of the pens and magnets that many other groups gave out as freebies, they provided allergy combatants such as hand sanitizer and tissues.

Run Vassar was there to get fair-goers to sign up for the Fun Run. Though they are a group focused on running, they had quizzes about sex, mental health and alcohol that earned quiz-takers a handmade mug.

For those not registered in the state of New York as an organ donor who were interested, the group NY Organ Donors was available to help them sign up in order to make their organs available to those who may need them in the future.

Some of the statistics the group provided were surprising. Only 21 percent of New York residents are registered organ donors; New York is one of the worst states in the country when it comes to the number of people who are registered as a ratio to how many are eligible to register. Their mission as an organization is to improve those numbers in the area.

Vassar EMS, which consists of over 50 student volunteers on call 123 hours per week, was there to let students know that they are available in case of such an emergency. Students who work for the EMS service are required to take an EMT class for credit that prepares them for to take care of many of the emergency health problems that students may face, be it the need for alcohol related care, or for a late night stumble.

Identity based organizations also had a part in the Harvest Health Fair, offering information to students who embody different identities on campus.

The Women’s Center and LGBTQ Center offer support and events for members of their specific groups, as well as safer sex supplies, and they were both represented at the health fair collecting members for their mailing lists and advertising upcoming events.

The Women’s Center in particular is looking to increase the number of events and event-goers having just been moved from Strong House to a larger location in Main, adjacent to the LGBTQ Center, and in the former location of the Vassar Greens’ Free Market.

Just as these two groups have services geared toward specific identities on campus, with the LGBTQ center offering support for members of the LGBTQ community and the Women’s Center for the women of Vassar, ACCESS is concerned with the well-being of students with disabilities.

This group, which focuses specifically on issues that affect people with differing levels of ability, is comprised of those with disabilities as well as able-bodied allies who are committed to promoting awareness of the various issues related to disabilities at Vassar.

The Harvest Health Fair  served as a place to centralize different health resources for students and help educate them about what is available to them.

Along with being a health fair, the event served as a welcome message to fall; leaf garlands decorated the room and in the center tables offered to guests common autumn refreshments such as apple cider, apples and trail mix.

More important than the snacks, though, the Harvest Health Fair provided students with information that  can help them stay healthy now, and may also help them become healthier in the future.

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