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March 22, 2001

Wellness Fair scheduled

Health screenings, exercise demonstrations, specialized booths and free food are some of the features of the annual Wellness Fair, a free event for the Pitt community.

This year's fair will be held 10-2 p.m., March 29, in the William Pitt Union. The event has grown so much over the years that the fair now is held in the Assembly Room, the Ballroom and the Kurtzman Room to accommodate the number of participants.

Fredric L. Goss, co-director of Pitt's Wellness Program, which sponsors the event, said the fair has expanded enormously in the 13 years of its existence. "We had 1,200 people come last year during the four hours. That includes students, who are welcome as well."

Some come with specific health questions, some come to pick up literature on various health fields and some come for the free food and massages or the door prizes, Goss said.

"We also changed the name to Wellness Fair from Wellness Day because there is entertainment value to wellness education. And we feel we offer something there for everybody."

Goss said the demonstrations of kickboxing, aerobics and dance, for example, show onlookers how certain exercises can increase fitness levels. "Until you see what's being done, you might not know of the health benefits these exercises can add to your life."

He added that participants need not attend only for self-help but also can learn something about a condition a family member has, such as diabetes.

The fair offers health screenings for asthma, breast cancer, glucose, glaucoma and cataracts, hemachromatosis, stroke, spinal scan, diabetic foot care, hearing and osteoporosis.

The most popular health screenings are for cholesterol, blood pressure and body composition, Goss said. "We had about 200 who tested their cholesterol levels and we found 29 percent of them to have an abnormal level. In our advisory capacity, we recommended those people see their primary care physicians."

About a third of those who tested their blood pressure also showed abnormal levels, Goss said, and even a higher percentage tested as overweight, which can lead to a variety of health problems.

"We see the fair as part of the Wellness Program's mission to educate. We want to increase the awareness of our available services, as well, such as the exercise and nutrition and dietary programs that we can offer."

Goss said the Wellness Program was developed in 1986 to provide Pitt community members with wellness education through seminars, workshops, courses and special events. The program offers annual fitness assessments, individual exercise prescriptions and fitness classes.

Pitt and UPMC Health System, as well as health-oriented organizations (National Kidney Foundation, Weight Watchers, Center for Organ Recovery and Education and many more), sponsor more than 40 information booths at the Wellness Fair that can address specific questions or provide general information.

"We also use this fair as an extension of our curricular program in exercise physiology," Goss said.

"Students get a chance for a little hands-on training as they work in taking blood pressure and measuring body composition and other screenings. It's a way of extending the classroom training for the students."

For more information on Pitt's Wellness Program, call 648-8251.

–Peter Hart

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