Performance and prevention

The debut of Cedar-Riverside’s health fair shared theater and neighborhood specific health information with residents.

Ifrah Mansour performs a piece entitled

Maddy Fox

Ifrah Mansour performs a piece entitled “Somalia’s Balloon” at the Cedar-Riverside community health fair at Mixed Blood Theater on Monday. The event, put on by the local community and HealthPartners, included performances and information on various health-related issues and services.

Olivia Johnson

In the heart of Cedar-Riverside, an inaugural fair disseminated health information from neighbor to neighbor.
Inside a fire station under the shadow of the Riverside Plaza apartments, Twin Cities organizations targeted health issues — including autism and immunization — of specific interest to the West Bank community.
The first-ever Cedar Riverside Health Fair, held on Monday afternoon, also highlighted fetal alcohol syndrome, breast and cervical cancer awareness, and juvenile mental health.  
“I hope [the health fair] brings more awareness to people accessing health,” said Desmond Grady, a Neighborhood HealthSource representative who shared information about immunizations, counseling and basic health care at the event. “We have these services. We want people to access them.”
Eleven local organizations provided information about their services and answered questions. The health fair also featured breakout sessions, spoken-word performances by Teen Voice and Sisco, a one-person play by Ifrah Mansour, and performances by the Brian Coyle Drama Club.
Addie Gorlin, a producer in residence at Mixed Blood Theatre, said she partnered with Southside Community Health Services  to start organizing the event about a year ago.
She said the unorthodox inclusion of theatrical performance at the health event was meant to open up to the community to topics like women’s health, basic CPR and youth issues such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, immunization, depression and anxiety.
“We just kind of went from there to think how we could come together and provide health care, health info and education within the East African community,” said Monisha Washington, who works for Q Health Connections.
Washington said she helped shape the fair’s informational elements, gearing them toward existing health concerns in Cedar-Riverside. 
For example, Washington said, many of the neighborhood’s residents are East African and hold religious beliefs that prohibit alcohol consumption.
“Fetal alcohol syndrome is a big [issue],” she said. “Some things aren’t talked about within the community, and if it’s your belief system not to drink alcohol, then you may not step forward and say, ‘Well I did, and my kid may have these symptoms.’ ”
To address the dangers of drinking while pregnant, coordinator Paige Robson tabled at the event to spread information on Minnesota
Organization of fetal alcohol syndrome’s prevention and support services.
Q Health Connections’ 37-foot mobile unit, which provides health care to communities around the state, also made an appearance at the fair, alongside chiropractor services and blood type and pressure screenings.
“Our hope is to be a revolving door in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood,” Gorlin said. “That means that we want to welcome people in, and we also want to make sure that we are going out into the community.”