Like other LIUNA-affiliated organizations around the country, the New England Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund (NELHSF) supports an annual calendar of regional health fairs to encourage informed healthcare choices, build healthier lifestyles and promote awareness of wellness services available to Laborers in its region. Through its regional fairs, the NELHSF creates a venue at which Laborers and their families can take advantage of comprehensive health screenings and other innovative health promotion programs provided by LIUNA’s health and welfare funds.

Providing members with the tools to make informed healthcare decisions is the primary goal of the NELHSF’s health fairs. With the ever-increasing cost of health services, the NELHSF has made it a priority to inform as many members as possible about how to effectively utilize health services in a cost-efficient manner without diminishing the quality of care received.

NELHSF staff will be on hand for one-on-one work with attendees to educate them about the importance of avoiding gaps in medical care. By not keeping medical problems in check, a member can easily develop more health problems down the road, leading, in turn, to deteriorated health and added expense for health funds. Emphasis also will be given to the important issue of unnecessary overlaps of care.

The Fund, in conjunction with area health providers and health and safety organizations, will provide information dealing with various diseases, cancer detection and prevention, smoking cessation, stress management, drug therapies, behavioral health and healthy dental habits. Screenings and services will include chiropractic assessments and treatments as well as blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol screenings to detect hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and other disease states. Additionally, hearing and pulmonary function tests will be offered.

A bone density analysis will be offered to screen for osteoporosis as well as skin damage screenings through the use of a Dermascan skin analyzer provided by the American Cancer Society. Although it is not a monitoring device and does not detect skin cancer, the Dermascan allows members to see invisible skin damage that could have been prevented through the regular use of sunscreen.

Additionally, with the national rates of being overweight and obesity climbing at an astronomical pace (nearly 129 million Americans are overweight, and an additional 61.3 million people are obese), nutrition and exercise will be a top priority at all the Fund’s 2004 health fairs. Interactive fitness routines will include working out with muscle strengthening resist-a-bands and exercise balls.

Alternative medicine therapies, an additional and significant component of New England Laborers’ health benefits, will be incorporated into the health fairs in an effort to enlighten members about all the health care options available to them. Acupuncture and massage therapy will be offered in hands-on demonstrations as well as interactive presentations that allow participation in alternative care modalities in a family-oriented setting.

Because increased demand for the influenza vaccine is anticipated this year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises that healthcare providers prepare for the upcoming influenza season immediately. NELHSF, in collaboration with New England LIUNA locals and District Councils, will offer all New England Laborers over the age of 18 years a free influenza vaccine at all its regional health fairs.

Though health fairs have a serious purpose, they are also designed to be enjoyable, social events for members and their families. The many support organizations in attendance distribute a variety of free promotional products. The Fund sponsors a children’s corner, complete with balloons, coloring books, games and face painting. Other fun events include hand massages and mini manicures—always popular offerings.

The LHSFNA offers a manual – The Healthy Laborer, Health Fairs for LIUNA Members – to help local unions, signatory employers and other LIUNA-affiliated organizations organize their own health fair. For a copy, go to the publications catalogue.

[John Anatone is the Tri-Funds Field Coordinator for the New England Region.]