Last updated: August 24. 2013 9:09AM - 114 Views

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LIMA ‚?? Allen County ranks 72 out of Ohio‚??s 88 counties in the health behaviors of tobacco and alcohol use, diet and unsafe sex.

Seventy-two. And not in a good way.

If health professionals are going to make a dent in that ranking, they believe they have to start with young people, St. Rita‚??s neighborhood nurse Denise Barnes said. With that in mind, this year‚??s Minority Health Fair will have a special focus.

‚??If we really want to make a change in the community, we need to start with teens and young adults,‚?Ě Barnes said.

Students from Lima Senior High School‚??s patient care technology classes, along with students from Apollo Career Center and Ohio Northern University, are helping with the fair this year. The work will give them community service credits and time and experience with health professionals. But it also gives them time to evaluate their own health and spread the word about healthy choices, from eating right and wearing a seat belt to avoiding risky sexual behavior.

Lima 11th-grader Kelsie Macklin swore off soda a year ago when a parent had health problems from drinking it.

‚??Now it‚??s just water, juice and milk,‚?Ě Macklin said. ‚??I like it a lot, but I know it‚??s bad for me. I‚??m trying to get my mom to quit.‚?Ě

NaShayla Russell, also in the 11th grade at Lima Senior High School, is looking forward to helping with the fair.

‚??It‚??s going to be fun,‚?Ě Russell said. ‚??We want everyone to come out.‚?Ě

The health fair runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Memorial Civic Center. At 1 p.m., Dr. Anthony Atkins‚?? LifeStoryz artists will perform ‚??State of Emergency,‚?Ě explicit songs on public health themes geared toward a teen audience.

Atkins is director of minority health at Health Partners of Western Ohio. He funded the music to address things he sees as a practicing doctor. ‚??Strap it up,‚?Ě for example, sung by 21-year-old Toledo-based Miss Behavin, urges women to demand that men practice safe sex and men to respect their partners enough to do so.

Many times only the older generation attends health fairs, and younger people are not concerned about their personal health, Health Partners special projects coordinator Dawn Mericle said.

‚??We want to get the message out to everyone about the importance of healthy living, so that they can stay healthy throughout their lifetime,‚?Ě Mericle said.

The fair will also include its traditional activities such as medical tests and screenings. Some of the tests, such as blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are free. Others have a cost, such as $25 for a chemistry profile that ordinarily would cost $700, Barnes said. Any blood test requires a water-only fast for 12 hours before the test.

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