With a single click, more than a dozen women gathered in early May for a virtual health fair to learn more about resources and strategies to stay healthy. East Baltimore's historic Israel Baptist Church and the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing Center for Community Innovation and Scholarship hosted the nearly four-hour Zoom session.
Since the onset of COVID-19, the Center for Community Innovation and Scholarship's programs have gone digital. The center aims to create and implement programs and policies that promote health and wellness, to reduce health inequities among underserved populations. For this event, CCIAS's Wald Community Nursing Center—which provides uninsured or underserved people with health and wellness services—collaborated with Israel Baptist Church's health ministry to help community members navigate the healthcare system.
"We were able to give people access to healthcare at their fingertips," said Alexis Peay, CCIAS's community outreach coordinator. "We tried to make it as easy as possible. We're finding that many people we're trying to reach are getting more comfortable with the technology that allows us to meet online."
Israel Baptist Church health ministry leader, Tangela Robinson, says the center has partnered with them many times for an in-person health fair but this was the first time the groups tried a virtual fair. More than 100 people have viewed the YouTube stream of the event posted after the Zoom session.
The virtual health fair opened with a prayer and Robinson began the discussion by talking about best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. She described the proper way to wear gloves and masks, as well as the importance of social distancing.
CCIAS nurse Sherry Chen gave tips on how to manage hypertension and diabetes. She also talked about recommended vaccines and cancer screenings and plugged the Wald Community Nursing Center's Ask a Nurse program.
"A physical community health fair can sometimes be overwhelming," said Chen. "This allowed people to ask questions and take notes. People could slow down and absorb information rather than just taking fliers and throwing them in a bag."
Nurse Shenae Harold provided resources to better access care. She discussed how to access Good Rx, a free-to-use website and mobile app that track prescription drug prices in the United States and provides coupons for discounts on medications.
Mental health clinician Kizzy Pittrell talked about how to cope with grief during COVID-19, detailing the stages of grief—shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
"Two people can experience the same loss but they'll experience it differently," Pittrell said. "You have to give yourself space and permission to feel. Check-in with your loved ones. Try to maintain a sense of normalcy. Focus on the here and now."
Robinson shared a National Alliance for Mental Illness video about the warning signs of mental health issues, distributed a mental health resource list to the group, and reminded them that she is also hosting ongoing virtual mental health sessions.
Johns Hopkins Bayview nurse Lori Perry, who is also Israel Baptist Church's health ministry advisor, hosted a caregivers' corner. She discussed how to access Johns Hopkins Bayview's Called to Care, a program that prepares and supports individuals caring for loved ones with health-related needs or limitations. She also talked about how to get the most out of a telehealth visit by setting agenda, expressing concerns honestly and remembering to ask questions.
Hospice nurse Katie Nelson discussed the importance of improving the quality of life for those with serious illnesses.
"The earlier you get palliative care support, the better," she said.
Nelson also talked about the importance of putting wishes in writing through advanced directives and how to designate a decision-maker, advising listeners to put advanced directives in bright envelopes and hang them on their refrigerators.
Nisa Maruthur and lifestyle interventionist Tracy Newsome held a session on the free-to-participate Diabetes Prevention Program. The DPP is a lifestyle change program that aims to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. It also can help participants lose weight through small, achievable changes like keeping a food journal and counting calories
"If you bite it, write it. If you snack it, track it," Newsome said. "Think about what you're putting in your body."
Peay, who is also a personal trainer, discussed how nutrition and exercise go hand in hand. She talked about portion control, serving sizes, how to read nutrition labels, the importance of calorie deficit for weight loss, and the significance of drinking water. Lead by Peay, the group closed the fair by performing five exercises using their bodyweight.
"I learned that health is more than just medication," says Israel Baptist Church member Sylvia Robinson. "You have to care for yourself in other ways. To get better, you have to make lifestyle changes."