Project Reach God’s Anointed New Generation held a community health fair Feb. 22 at the Riceboro youth center. The event offered free health screenings, Affordable Care Act sign-ups, and health and wellness advice.
“We want to educate the community on how to make better, healthier choices and to take care of their bodies,” said Lavonia LeCounte, Project Reach executive director.
Project Reach GANG is a nonprofit, community youth-outreach program. They serve the community by promoting cultural awareness, mentorships and academics. One of their program components is health and wellness.
“It is important to educate the community on how to properly take care of our bodies through diet and exercise,” LeCounte said. “If we don’t diet and exercise properly, we aren’t going to benefit ourselves.”
The health fair offered human immunodeficiency virus screenings, blood pressure readings, and cholesterol and blood-glucose screenings. Paramedics from Liberty EMS took participants’ blood via fingertip prick to run tests.
“Blood sugar should stay below 120 milligrams per deciliter and cholesterol should be under 200,” paramedic Abbie Gottschall said. “And blood pressure should be below 120 over 80.”
It is important to check these levels often, especially cholesterol levels.
“You can’t tell if your cholesterol levels are high unless you are tested,” Gottschall said. “So it is important to check your blood sugar and cholesterol every six months.”
Blood pressure can be checked weekly. If participants tested at the fair showed higher-than-normal results, Gottschall recommended they see their primary-care physician soon and think about making changes in their diet.
“Diet is very important,” Gottschall said. “We need to lower saturated fats and exercise more often.”
Portion sizes also play a part in a healthy diet. Destiny LeCounte, 14, an eighth-grader at Lewis Fraiser Middle School, hosted a nutrition and fitness table to teach portion control. Plastic food examples lined her table, showcasing the proper serving sizes of popular foods like macaroni and cheese, chicken breast and soda.
“Basically, the portions we should eat each day should be smaller,” she said. “We need to switch to whole grain foods and cut down on our portions of added sugars and solid fats.”
LeCounte recently returned from a 4-H competition in Eatonton, where she won first place for her food and fitness project.
“The assignment was to take something you love to do and turn it into a project,” she said. “I wanted to get myself healthy and focus on fitness.”
Now she shares what she learned with the community by teaching portion control and the nutrition guidelines issued by www.choosemyplate.gov, a United States Department of Agriculture website. This site displays a plate sectioned off to show the proper amounts of vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains and dairy people should eat every day.
“MyPlate teaches us what to put on our plate,” LeCounte said. “I had to learn how to cut down on my protein and dairy and load my plate with more fruits and vegetables.”
Incorporating portion control, proper diet and exercise all can lead to a healthier lifestyle. The fair also offered services to community members who may not have known they were available in Riceboro. The Georgia Council for the Hearing Impaired — which is the statewide service center for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened and deaf-blind — hosted a table at the event to make community members aware of all the services available to them.
“We service the deaf and hard of hearing in 28 counties in Georgia,” information and referral specialist Nancy Davis said. “People in Liberty, Long and Chatham counties can all receive benefits if they qualify.”
Community members who are deaf, blind or have mild or severe hearing loss can receive free benefits, such as telephone equipment that converts spoken words into written words for those who have a hard time hearing over the telephone.
“These are examples of benefits that many people in the community can take advantage of,” Davis said.
For more information about GATCHI, go to http://www.gatchi.org