Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

LA Health Expo to offer free screenings, cooking classes and self-defense lessons

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Next week in downtown L.A., a public health expo put on by the L.A. County Department of Public Health aims to set Angelenos on the path to better health. 

The Health Expo take place on  April 4, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument (Olvera Street). Free screenings at the event will include dental, vision, blood sugar, blood pressure and HIV.

Health officials will be conducting demonstrations in self-defense and balanced cooking, as well as giving away tools for a healthier life including bike maps, recipe books and nicotine patches. More than 30 informational booths will be set up throughout the plaza with representatives from L.A.  City Housing, Metro FasTrak, CalFresh and WIC. 

There will also be live music and entertainment and a variety of resources to instruct you on where to find affordable mammograms and mental health services in L.A. 

If you feel more like giving than receiving next week, the Children's Hospital Los Angeles will be there putting on a blood drive. According to the hospital, the donations they receive help them meet 90 percent of their patients' needs for blood transfusions each year.

While the Health Expo is open to everyone, the need for free health services is especially great in South Los Angeles. According to 2010 statistis from the California Endowment, families in South L.A. have higher rates of being uninsured compared to people throughout L.A. County as a whole — those who are insured are more likely to be covered by a government program than a private plan.

Jonathan Fielding is the director of the County health department and said last year's expo attracted more than 1,000 people, and he's expecting this year's crowd to be even bigger. Co-hosting the event with L.A. City, health officials have expanded their offerings this year to include a wider range of screenings. 

Although many of these tests are preliminary, it allows patients to then be referred to the appropriate specialist or follow-up appointment. Fielding said the event is intended to be a "fun, positive experience" that is a "celebration of good health." 

The one-day Health Expo is part of National Public Health Week  (NPHW) — a yearly celebration of public health that takes place in cities across the U.S.  Established in 2005, the countrywide event has a different theme each year.  In 2013, the theme focuses on how proactive public health can have major financial benefits as well.

"The 2013 NPHW theme was developed to highlight the value of prevention and the importance of well-supported public health systems in preventing disease, saving lives and curbing health care spending," according to the organization's website. 

National Public Health Week will be held this year from April 1 to 7.

The Health Expo takes place at 125 Paseo de la Plaza in Downtown. Resources at the event will be available in both English and Spanish. 

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