Thursday, March 25, 2010

UC hosts health fair for deaf

UC hosts health fair for deaf

Back in the early 1990s, Betty Rosenberger, a deaf interpreter at University Hospital, had to give a patient the worst kind of bad news: He had been diagnosed with AIDS and had maybe two weeks to live.

"The doctor was actually saying it, but it was my hands, my face, the man was looking at," the Delhi Township woman said. "It was so hard."

A cluster of HIV/AIDS cases in Cincinnati's deaf community made Rosenberger realize how difficult it was for deaf people to get accurate information about protecting their health.

So in 1994, she organized a health fair targeted specifically to the deaf and hard of hearing community.

The health fair is still going strong. It takes place again 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday at the University of Cincinnati's Tangeman Center.

For the first several years of its existence, the health fair focused almost exclusively on HIV/AIDS prevention and care.

It's not always easy for public health messages to get through to the deaf community, which is often closed to the hearing world, Rosenberger said.

"For a long time, deaf people would see the word 'AIDS' and stop paying attention, because aids were something you put in your ears to help you hear," she said.

Over the years, the health fair has evolved to include a broad spectrum of health and wellness issues, Rosenberger said.

This year's fair features several breakout sessions on topics like diabetes, heart health and hypertension, substance abuse, dental care, mental health and spirituality. Information booths will be set up by a variety of vendors and health-care providers. Free health screenings will also be available.

More than 30 deaf interpreters will be working the fair.

The fair usually draws about 1,500 people a year, Rosenberger said, including about 400 deaf and hearing-impaired people.