9Health Fair sees continued success | PostIndependent.com

9Health Fair sees continued success

Ryan Hoffman | rhoffman@citizentelegram.com
Colorado Mesa University student Kathy Unger
Ryan Hoffman / Citizen Telegram |

Around 850 people, some from as far as Grand Junction, flocked to Grand River Health’s Rifle campus this past Saturday for the annual 9Health Fair, marking another success in the fair’s emergence as one of the premiere health-screening events in the region.

Since the hospital started hosting the event in 1997, the fair, which offers blood screenings and an array of other health assessments, has drastically transformed, said Annick Pruett, Grand River Health administrative director.

Although turnout was relatively flat compared to the previous year — preliminary projections put attendance at 850 people — continued improvements aimed at reducing wait times appear to be paying dividends.

The hospital pushed early online registration as a way to shrink the lines at the fair this year. By offering 20 percent off on the blood screening to those who registered early Grand River managed to persuade 298 people to register online. The early registration helped expedite the process and capped wait times to about 15 minutes at peak times, Pruett said.

The no-hassle environment brought Emeran Hofmann, a Grand Junction resident, to the fair. Hofmann, who has attended the Rifle health fair for at least the past six years, said that while there are hundreds of people at the fair every year, it feels a lot less crowded than similar events he has attended. That combined with the low cost makes it well worth the drive, he said.

9Health Fair conducts approximately 130 fairs around the state in a given year, and the fair in Rifle is one of the best, said Marla Rodriguez, 9Health Fair communications director.

“It’s always been one of our best sites, and I know they do a great job of publicizing the fair and organizing the fair, and it’s a great service to the community,” she said.

Silt resident Edgar Bustillos said he tries to attend the fair each year because it is “easy, fast and cheap.”

The event also is an opportunity for Rifle residents to mingle and catch up with neighbors and friends.

“We see everyone here,” Rifle resident Shelia Estes said as she waived to a friend at a nearby table. “It’s a community event.”

Estes and her husband, Jim Estes, have attended the fair from the beginning, even before Grand River Health started hosting it. The fair’s transformation over the years is remarkable.

“It use to be you wait in line for a long while,” Jim said, noting that now “you move right through.”

Pruett estimates Grand River paid roughly in the neighborhood of $5,000 to subsidize the fair this year — an expense mostly attributed to food cost and paying hospital personnel who could not volunteer because they performed a task relative to their job description.

The hospital views the fair as a “win-win” investment in the community, but it would not be possible without the volunteers, Pruett said. About 195 people, many of them past volunteers, helped this year.

“I love the people, love the patients, I love to help them out,” said volunteer Nell Struwe. Struwe, a longtime Rifle resident, said she tries to return each year to help with the health fair, which she said has grown significantly from the time she first volunteered.

Every year 9Health Fair screenings alert thousands of people to previously undetected health issues. In 2014, fair screenings found approximately 10,000 people with pre-diabetes, according to Rodriguez.

While some people attend 9Health’s health fairs because they could not otherwise afford the screenings, the majority of attendees are middle class and insured, Rodriguez said. Many people view the savings offered by the health fair as too good of an opportunity to pass on.

Mesa resident Becky Strong recalled needing a vitamin D screening several years ago. After going to her primary care physician, Strong was slapped with a $250 bill, more than seven times the cost 9Health Fair charges for its blood chemistry screening.

Strong said she tries to make the trip to Rifle every year because of the “extremely cheap” prices at the 9Health Fair.

She’s not alone. Every year it seems more and more people from outside Rifle make the trip to the health fair, Jim Estes said.

“It’s a big deal for Rifle,” he added. “It’s a good deal for Rifle.”

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