Columbus families attend children's health fair

Angel Collier left the second annual Children’s Health Fair Saturday with plenty of goodies: toothbrushes, pencils and snacks.

The 9-year-old also walked away with some valuable lessons about her health.

“Sometimes you can’t eat a lot of candy because you can get a lot of cavities,” said the South Columbus Elementary School student, who was accompanied by her aunt, Margaret Burks.

The two joined a number of families who stopped by Baker Middle School in Columbus for the fair, put on by 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Throughout the day, children were able to receive health screenings and learn about bicycle safety, fitness activities and nutritious diets, among other things.

“Children function in school when they’re healthy,” said Tracy Belt, family liason with 21st Century.

Several local organizations, including Valley Health Care, New Horizons and Peach State Health Plan, were on hand to inform parents on how to keep children’s well-being in tip-top shape — part of which requires prevention.

Sheila Mayfield, clinical nursing director at the Columbus Department of Public Health, was at the fair to educate families about immunizations and diabetes — one of the most common diseases in school-aged children. To prevent diabetes, which affects more than 185,000 Americans under the age of 20, Mayfield encouraged instilling healthy eating habits at a young age and talking to your private physician about early signs.

“It’s up to us to ask questions,” she said. “It makes us more involved in our own healthcare.”

Young attendees also got their share of entertainment with clowns, balloon animals, martial arts shows, and high school band performances.

Eight-year-old Leilani Baez was on her way to watch a karate demonstration by Tiger Eye Martial Arts Academy. She and her mother, Elsie Baez, had made their rounds at the fair, collecting two free bike helmets, healthy snacks and information pamphlets. Leilani, a student at Key Elementary School, was also able to get her vision screened. And now, mother Baez said she may need to take her daughter to the optometrist soon.

“That’s good,” Baez said. “Because that helped me know she needs help.”