At the Hope and Health Festival on May 17, families received health and nutrition info, health screenings, and free food and games.
Photo by Janelle Germanos.
In the south county area, many residents have trouble receiving health care, says Linda Patterson, executive director of the Lorton Community Action Center.
It was this struggle to access care that was behind the motivation for the Hope and Health Festival, a collaborative effort between the Lorton Community Action Center, South County Church, and the Lorton Library.
“We decided that there was enough need in the area to have this type of event,” Patterson said.
Lorton resident Andy Casper, the pastor of South County Church, came up with the idea for the Hope and Health festival to show that his church cares for the community.
“We want to invest in the community and provide hope,” Casper said.
This year, the festival was held for the second time on May 17. Individuals and their families received health and nutrition info, health screenings, and food and games.
According to Patterson, residents of the south county area, which includes the Mount Vernon district, are underserved when it comes to health care.
One of the reasons for this, Patterson says, is a lack of transportation.
“It can be very difficult to maneuver the bus system,” Patterson said. “It can take 45 minutes to two hours to get up and down Richmond Highway. Transportation is a huge issue.”
Residents in the southern part of Fairfax County also receive a lower income than those in other parts of the county, which leads to a lack of health care. Patterson said this can make it difficult for individuals to keep track of things like high blood pressure and cholesterol.
LCAC serves the Fort Belvoir, Lorton and Newington areas, as well as other areas of southeast Fairfax County. According to a 2011 Partnership for a Healthier Fairfax report, the Route 1 corridor, on which the Lorton Community Action Center sits, has a high concentration of people at or below the federal poverty line. This can make access to health care difficult.
Residents of the 22060 Zip Code, according to the same 2011 Partnership for a Healthier Fairfax report, are also more likely than residents in other parts of the county to use the emergency room for non-emergencies. The rate for 22060, which includes the Fort Belvoir area, is 290-434 visits per 1,000 residents. The only higher category is more than 434 visits per 1,000 residents.
The Hope and Health Festival was created to help address these issues by providing health information and screenings for residents. Several area organizations were on hand to give health and nutritional info that residents may not otherwise receive. Representatives from Fairfax County Public Schools were also present to provide nutritional counseling to help combat the child obesity problem, Patterson said.
Casper says events like the Hope and Health Festival help South County Church, which was founded in 2008, invest in the community.
“From the very beginning, we knew we wanted a community services arm. That is where South County Cares came from,” he said. “We want to lift the spirits of people in the community.”