As Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” pulsed through the crowd, students clustered under the Student Services breezeway Tuesday, mingling amid giant phallic symbols, five-pound globs of fat and plastic diagrams of reproductive organs. Halfway through the song, an announcer invited students to have their blood pressure checked and see if they won a free oil change.
This isn’t the University’s typical party-themed event, like Patio Tuesday or Club USF – this is the USF Health Fair.
In an effort to raise awareness about Student Health Services (SHS) and what it offers to students, the health fair serves as both a promotional tool and a service for students whose college lifestyles have prevented them from getting regular checkups.
“It’s really important for us to create a fun atmosphere that gets students interested in our services and, more importantly, lets them know that they can come to us for primary care as well as for their physical, mental and social wellness,” said health learning facilitator Deidre Orriola, who organized the event.
The fair featured a variety of booths and indoor and outdoor events to educate students and staff about eating and living healthfully. Attendees could have their vision, hearing, glucose and blood pressure tested – something that attracted biomedical sciences major Courtney Titus to the fair.
“A lot of people hear about these tests and think, ‘I don’t need to worry about that, I’m not 80 years old,’ but they do,” she said. “People our age can have high blood pressure or diabetes and not even know it. It’s not just what you eat – it’s also genetics that causes these things, and it’s good that the health fair allows students to find out about them.”
One draw for some students was the free condom displays, which could be found at a majority of the booths.
“You know how when you’re a little kid and you guess how many jelly beans are in a jar? It was like that, but with condoms,” biomedical sciences major Erik Scott said about the ubiquity of the “free condoms” containers.
Two other popular attractions were the free massages, which had a line of waiting students throughout the day, and the nutrition booth, where senior dietician Kim May handed out pamphlets with healthy meal and snack ideas and talked to students about their diets.
“Most students – both at the fair today and those who see me (at SHS) – are concerned about gaining the freshman 15, which is a myth,” she said. “The average freshman year weight gain is 2 to 3 pounds, and 65 percent of students overall are at a perfectly healthy weight.”
May had a steady stream of students visiting her booth during the fair. She said students who wanted more information about healthy weight watching should sign up for her “Eat Smart, Live Smart” presentation, which runs two to four times a month.
For some students, the event was a convenient way to have nagging health questions answered.
“I was actually headed to the health center because I had a few questions about mono,” biology major Caitlyn Palmby said. “Then I saw this and got everything answered within a few minutes at the Ask-a-Doctor booth. I also got a glucose test, which is something I hadn’t planned on doing, but I’m glad I did.”
Now in its 17th year, the USF Health Fair hasn’t changed much since it started, Orriola said.
“This is the first health Fair that I’ve organized, but thankfully my predecessor, Laura Rusnak, created a book that guided me through every step of the process,” she said. “The goals and scale of the project are roughly the same as years past … the book is edited and updated every year, and it’s really become the health fair bible.”