About the manual
Health fairs help people in recovery learn how to better manage medical conditions that can be improved with screening, education, and support. They also provide personalized health information that participants can share with their physicians, family members, and other supporters. Health fairs are a low-key way to encourage people to make healthier choices that lead to a satisfying lifestyle centered on wellness.
This manual shows how to plan and conduct health fairs for participants living with mental health or substance abuse disorders. It was co-developed by the Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey and the UIC Center on Psychiatric Disability and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions. Written from a practical and experiential perspective, it includes tips and tools that grew out of health fairs conducted by these organizations across the country. While health fairs can range from small, simple events to large, complex ones, the manual is designed to offer a roadmap for planning a successful event, regardless of size and complexity.
Who can use it?
Since organizing a health fair takes time and effort, the manual recommends forming a health fair committee. Suggestions are provided for how a sponsoring organization might identify and partner with community organizations, health care providers, and related businesses to create a planning committee. Once formed, committee members can work together to identify the many tasks involved and resources needed, who will be responsible for each, and how the entire process will be tracked to ensure success.
How does it work?
The manual contains 9 chapters that cover the basic components of planning and running a health fair. Real-life examples are provided from actual health fairs in order to ensure relevance and promote brainstorming of ideas by fair planners. A summary at the end of each chapter highlights key points and takeaway messages to consider. Pre-event, during, and post-event tasks are outlined and described in detail so that everyone will understand what needs to occur. Health fair planning forms also are available for download.
-Chapter 1 Introduction and Purpose of the Guidebook provides information on the benefits of health fairs and describes how a wellness partnership was formed by a peer-run recovery program and university research center to hold health fairs and create the guidebook.
-Chapter 2 Reasons to Conduct a Health Fair describes health fair benefits through stories of how people change their skills, attitudes and behaviors after participating in health fairs.
-Chapter 3 Who Will You Reach & How Will You Advertise? helps planners decide where to hold a fair, how to advertise it, what health tests and screenings to offer, and how to match health and lifestyle information to the needs of the groups being targeted.
-Chapter 4 Preparing Attendees for Your Fair discusses the practical and emotional needs of health fair participants and describes the power of peer support for meeting those needs.
-Chapter 5 Choosing the Venue for Your Fair presents considerations regarding the geographical location, physical layout, nearby resources, and social setting that meets the full range of participants’ needs.
-Chapter 6 Health Fair Supplies and Resources reviews the standard supplies and resources that are needed to conduct a health fair.
-Chapter 7 Planning and Operating Your Health Fair Stations describes each of the stations that might be offered at a health fair and how staff and volunteers can be recruited and trained.
-Chapter 8 Staffing Your Fair reviews staffing considerations, including the qualifications and training needed to administer health tests and screenings.
-Chapter 9 Financial Considerations in Running a Health Fair describes the operational expenses you can expect and how to fund or offset them.
What resources are needed?
Anyone with an interest in running a health fair can use this manual. Included in the guide is a helpful Supplies & Budget Spreadsheet that provides a comprehensive lists of tasks to be completed and resources to be acquired at different planning stages, starting with a year before the health fair. These resources include:
What experience is needed?
Staffing is one of the most important aspects of a successful health fair. While it’s helpful for some of your planning committee members to have experience running health fairs, it’s not a requirement. We suggest that committee members and health fair staffers attend one or more health fairs to gain familiarity with how they operate. Regardless of level of experience, it is critical to provide training to all staff and volunteers to ensure that each person involved in the health fair knows his or her role, its expectations, the protocol for handling sensitive health information, and the importance of treating participants and others with respect. Training includes sensitivity to the special needs and strengths of people in recovery, as well as cultural competency.
Preparing to use the manual
1. Read the whole manual before taking any definitive steps toward running a health fair.
2. Form a Health Fair Committee, with subcommittees as needed, to plan and operate your health fair. Together, committee members can read and discuss the manual and its tools and resources.
3. If new to this form of health education, attend one or more health fairs in your local community to gain experience with what a fair looks like and what participation feels like.
4. Research past health fairs and screening events in your community to learn about organizations and sponsors that could be helpful in planning and implementing your health fair.