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baltimoresun.com

Lansdowne High to host community health and safety fair

By Julie Baughman, jbaughman@tribune.com

10:41 AM EDT, March 18, 2013

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Ever wonder how to do Zumba or eat healthier or what the proper fire safety procedures are?

To answer those questions — and many others — Lansdowne High School is hosting its seventh annual Community Health and Safety Information Fair, Thursday, March 21, 4 to 6 p.m., in the school cafeteria.

Lansdowne teacher Wendy Happel said the fair began as a way for Lansdowne residents to interact with students at the high school and also to provide an opportunity for a one-stop shopping experience for public health information.

"I wanted the community to see that Lansdowne, the high school, had a positive image," Happel said.

But instead of simply offering an opportunity for residents who might not have children in area schools to see the high school campus on Hollins Ferry Road, Happel added the extra incentive of providing free health and safety information that anyone could use.

"We invite different community groups and private individuals that have businesses or physicians that would present information to the community," she said.

"They wanted people from the community to come in, and see what the school could do and what we could do for the community," she said.

The fair will feature booths from various organizations, local businesses and government agencies providing information about issues ranging from women's health to fire safety to how to safely use the Internet.

Booths will offer food and activities, and the school's theater group and dance company will also perform. There will also be door prizes.

Happel said the fair will be a great opportunity for students, families and area citizens to learn more about public health and get information about both personal and community safety they might be reluctant to search for.

"I think part of it is not knowing where to get it," Happel said of public health information.

The fair will give those individuals, "options to help them make better choices as far as their living — their health — goes," Happel said.

"Hopefully, they'll have different alternatives: They'll have references; they'll make contacts," she said.

Andrew Kalfoglou, assistant professor in the health administration and public policy program at the nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said events like the Lansdowne health fair are great for raising community awareness.

The fairs provide an informal and effective way to teach people that very small changes in their lifestyle can have a very large impact on their health and quality of life, Kalfoglou said.

"I certainly think that any kind of awareness that's offered is of great benefit," she said.

Kalfoglou said that, although some people may find the mass of information overwhelming, being able to bring home pamphlets and brochures with that information often has a lasting impact.

For example, she said, the fire safety information being offered at the fair could have a ripple effect throughout the community.

"You may not go home immediately with fire safety on your mind. But if you've got a brochure, you can reinforce what your children are learning at school, get into healthy habits like checking your smoke detectors," Kalfoglou said.

"So much of our own health and well being is related to public health rather than medical care, and so one-stop shopping for awareness ... is terrific," she said.

Thursday's event is free and open to residents in the surrounding communities.