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VALLEY ROUNDUP | North Hollywood

Thai Health Fair Provides Free Medical Screenings

March 29, 1999|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN

The crowds began forming at Wat Thai Temple hours before the start of the first Thai Health Fair Sunday. And before the event ended in late afternoon, nearly 1,000 people had turned out.

As with many cultural events at Wat Thai, people were treated to a cultural bounty--from traditional dancing beneath the shimmering gold and red of the Buddhist temple's facade to the omnipresent aroma of roasted chicken satay on skewers.

But the biggest draw of the health fair, which organizers hope to make an annual event, was the variety of health screenings and medical checkups offered by Thai medical volunteers.

The young and old perused brochures, many written in Thai and English, from more than 40 booths set up around the temple grounds.

Some visitors like Kim Saeung, 74, moved patiently through medical stations, getting free checkups for everything from blood sugar to blood pressure.

"It's very convenient," said Saeung looking up from a bowl of rice noodle soup. "When you come, you can see everything here."

The health fair, which drew people from Westlake Village to West Covina, was sponsored by the Thai Community Development Center in conjunction with the Asian Health Project, the Thai Physicians Assn., Thai Nurses Assn., and the temple. It was held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mammogram screenings were well attended, according to event officials. So were cholesterol screenings and dental checkups, as evidenced by smiling children clutching their gifts of Crest toothpaste and toothbrushes like new toys.

The event targeted poorer immigrant Thais and East Asians, who often suffer from arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure, but often can't afford health care or are reticent to seek it because of cultural differences, according Chanchanit Martorell, executive director of the Thai Community Development Center.

In an effort to better serve the area's health needs, officials took a survey to determine what kind of health care was most needed or desired. To encourage people to participate, organizers raffled off a round-trip ticket to Bangkok, Thailand, which was donated by Thai Airways.

"In this health fair, one of the most important components has been a needs assessment survey, which will help us determine what is lacking," said Ernesto J. Vigoreaux, project manager for the center. "It's our objective to find what is desperately needed and provide those health-care services."

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