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Beijing Street Health Fair

Since I arrived early for a meeting with an NGO executive in the Chaoyang district, I walked around the neighborhood to get my bearings and pass some time. Coming around a corner, I saw a crowd of people around a long table collecting pamphlets. Looking more closely, I realized that this was a health fair staffed by a local hospital.

On one end of the long table, scales were set up so people could weigh themselves. At the table next to the scale, a man was seated with his sleeve rolled up so that the nurse could check his blood pressure. In the next chair, a woman was having her finger pricked, and the nurse was putting the blood on the strip into the Accu-chex blood monitor to read the blood glucose level.  I noted on a poster that this outreach was sponsored in part by a pharmaceutical company.  Although weight, blood pressure, and glucose levels were being checked, I did not observe any counseling being provided by the nurses to the patients.  I collected some pamphlets to learn what kind of patient information was being shared. Instead of information on diabetes, the pamphlets included a bank give-away announcement, a Ministry of Justice pamphlet on the proper handling of propane tanks, a family planning brochure, and a brochure on preventing birth defects. When I later showed the NGO executive the materials I had gathered at the street fair, he speculated that the pharmaceutical company provided funding for the screenings, and the bank paid the hospital to distribute its promotional flyers. By the time I emerged from my interview an hour later, the fair had disappeared without a trace.  While the health fair drew interest from the mostly older crowd, without more engagement between the staff teaching participants the meaning of the blood glucose scores, I wondered about its effectiveness.  In designing a diabetes initiative for GBCHealth, I would be challenged to make a more lasting educational impact than I had just seen – otherwise my efforts would not leave a more permanent trace than this ephemeral fair.

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