York Holds its First Virtual Health Fair Amidst COVID Pandemic

Photo by| York College

By Emiree Campbell

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CUNY York College held its Annual Health Fair this year in a virtual format from Dec. 3 – 18. 

York College Health Services Director Marva Frederick, the woman behind the fair, described the event as an effort to increase students’ knowledge about concerns related to maintaining good health through effective health practices. Frederick gave a plethora of information related to the purposes of the fair, such as acquiring medical insurance, health-related scholarships, mental health counseling and COVID- related concerns and services provided by York’s Student Health Services Center. 

“The goal of our health fair is to assist students in maintaining the healthiest lifestyle possible and to engage all students in the discussion on matters relating to their health concerns and health issues in general,” said Frederick. 

During previous health fairs, information was normally spread through multiple forms of communication such as handouts, face-to-face communication or presentations. But while this semester everything was strictly online, Frederick said it wasn’t challenging to carry it out in this format.

  “I would not describe the activities that were involved in the planning of our first health fair as challenging,” said Frederick. “It was simply a matter of adapting the offerings to the online environment, having the insurance and health navigators do the same and bringing it all together in a cohesive manner with the assistance of staff, students and York College Information Technology Department.” 

The health fair focused on a number of health insurances and services available for students such as the Affinity Health Plan, Fidelis Care,and EmblemHealth. The college provides both child care and counseling services.

Charlene Dertinger is the director of the York College Child and Family Center, located on campus in the Saint Monica building. It is a high quality early childhood program offering services for children ages six months to four years old.The center has a universal Pre-K program, which is funded through the Department of Education and provides nutritious meals for children. 

“Our staff is highly certified, they’re knowledgeable, they’re experienced,” said Dertinger. “Our priority is having your child learn while keeping them healthy and safe and supervised.” 

These services aren’t usually free, however depending on your situation you may receive extra help. The center can be reached at 718-262-2930 or you can email Charlene at cdertinger@york.cuny.edu 

Due to the circumstances of the pandemic, York’s Counseling Center, with funding from the CARES Act, is preparing to meet the increased need of students by significantly expanding mental health and well-being services to the college community. Starting in January 2021, free, virtual counseling sessions as well as free, virtual walk-in sessions with community telemental health counselors will be available through the Counseling Center.

“We offer a number of different services for students including individual psychological counseling, academic counseling, academic probation advising, and psychoeducational workshops,” said Student Psychological Counselor at York and Licensed Psychologist, Scott Smith.  

The center offers free, confidential, individual psychological counseling to all matriculated York College students. Sessions are once per-week and for 45 minutes. 

“Ever since the college went to remote learning, we have been conducting telecounseling via Zoom,” said Smith. “The coronavirus pandemic has considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions nationally.” 

“Without their normal coping strategies available to them, some students have sought support through psychological counseling with one of our licensed psychologists on staff. Others have turned to our virtual peer support group, Better Together.” said Smith. 

If students are interested in scheduling a psychological counseling session, they may email Barbara Par, call the Counseling Center’s front desk, or visit the virtual front desk , available on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11 a.m. to noon. To join the Better Together peer support group, students may email Dr. Ericka Woods or Dr. Scott Smith. 

Additionally, live fitness and yoga sessions will be available starting January 4 and the MindWise Mental Health Screening Platform will be available soon to students, faculty and staff. MindWise offers behavioral health screenings assessed through validated health questionnaires, with links to additional trusted resources. 

The Health Fair also centered on the Young Ambassador Scholarship, which is offered by the Eye Bank of New York, an association that purpose is to give the gift of sight. The $3,000 scholarship is for students 25 and younger. 

The Epilepsy Foundation of Metropolitan New York was also mentioned.The foundation has been at the heart of New York City’s epilepsy community for almost 50 years. It is the only specialized organization in New York that has combined epilepsy awareness, education, and advocacy with individualized services such as counseling and vocational support since 1967. The foundation strives to stop seizures, find a cure, and overcome the challenges created by epilepsy.

Throughout the fair there were interactive guidelines on how to choose a health plan and choosing nutritional meals. It even included information on how COVID-19 spreads and the personal experiences of a nurse and COVID. Medical and health care clubs were mentioned which focused on enhancing students’ knowledge of chemistry and pharmaceutical employment and research opportunities as well as helping students get into their desired medical profession.

The vendors present at the student health services center have been hosting health fairs for a number of years. The external health contacts are extensive. All prior health fair participants, insurance navigators, city agencies, private organizations, college clubs, departmental units and private individuals were given the opportunity to contribute to the health fair .

“No one person has all the information they need,” said Frederick. “A health fair is an educational tool, designed to provide evidenced-based health information to a population on preventive measures they can take to maintain a healthy lifestyle physically, and mentally.”  

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