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Helping people live healthier

Want to try out the tools of a surgeon in a mock operating room? Or learn how to take a fish hook out of your thumb? What about getting a free carotid artery screening?

Essentia Health-Central Region, which includes St. Joseph’s Medical Center and its clinics, will host its second annual Essentia Health Community Health Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Westgate Mall. 

The health fair is meant to be informative and interactive for people of all ages. Last year the event had 3,000 visitors and organizers are hoping to double that this year. 

“The objective of the event is to share information that will help people live healthier,” explained Kim Deiss, Essentia Health marketing and community relations director. “I tell our team that if each person attending the health fair walks away and makes one small change in their life to improve their health, we’ve accomplished our 

goal. That could be as simple as recognizing that a serving of meat is the size of your palm, not half the size of your dinner plate, or it could be as big as having your glucose checked and realizing you need to see a doctor because you are at high risk of having diabetes. It all matters.”

The fair booths and demonstrations will essentially take over the mall, including several empty stores.

Here is a partial listing of the some of the activities planned for the health fair:

• See what a mom-to-be sees on a prenatal ultrasound.

• Perform surgery in a mock operating room. A mannequin will be there to undergo a minimally invasive surgery.

• Learn how to do hands-only CPR to save a life. Test yourself on an interactive mannequin to see how effective you are with your chest compressions.

• Talk to dietitians and diabetes educators about a healthy diet.

• Have your medications reviewed by a pharmacist to see if they support one another or conflict.

• Free blood pressure checks.

• Free glucose checks.

• Free body mass index calculations.

• Lipids (cholesterol tests) and a PSA screening (for men) for just $5.

• Sign up for a free heart screening, with dates available during the next three months.

• Learn about healthy sleep and sleep apnea. Find out when you might benefit from a sleep study.

• A Kid Zone, fun circuit training activities for children, will teach them that getting exercise doesn’t have to be a chore.

• See how a rapid strep test actually works.

• Put in place an advanced health care directive.

• Hop inside an ambulance or fire truck.

• Learn how to correctly install child car seats.

• Get your child’s height and weight checked.

• Learn about the new Baxter Medical Park.

• Check into a mock labor and delivery room.

• Touch the medical equipment used to fix broken bones, arthritic hips and knees and open blood vessels.

• Learn how to strengthen your bones and joints. 

• See how well you are at washing your hands in a blacklight germ tunnel.

• Pick up information about depression and improving your mental health.

• Learn what a breast lump feels like.

• Learn about the SAGE program that helps women get regular mammograms.

• See how an endoscopy scope works.

• See how an echocardiography machine works.

• Free carotid artery screenings will be available and a surgeon will be there to consult with. 

• Learn how to take out a fish hook. 

There will also be several community non-profit organizations from the community that also share a health focus that will have booths at the  mall, said Deiss.

Deb Steen, certified nurse practitioner with Convenient Care at Essentia Health, said her clinic at Cub Foods in Baxter is seeing a large number of cases of strep throat right now. She will demonstrate the strep screening process and provide information on why it’s important to treat strep throat, as well as answer questions about Convenient Care. 

“We’ll have a lot of providers there and I see our role as a resource and as education,” Steen said of the health fair. “Lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in life quality and longevity. We’re excited about this. It’s fun.”

Rebecca Wirtz, nurse practitioner at the Brainerd Lakes Heart and Vascular Center, said her department will be bringing information and tools to promote heart healthy living, including tools from the Cath lab that demonstrate how stents and balloons are implanted and demonstrations on CPR and using an automated external defibrillator, or AED. 

“It will show the broad range of what we do,” said Wirtz. 

“It’s a fun event, I think everybody learns something,” Deiss said. “Last year we got terrific feedback from people. You’re really hearing from the experts about what they do every day and how you can improve your health.”

JODIE TWEED may be reached at or 855-5858.

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.