KAILUA-KONA — For some residents in the communities of South Kona, access to quality health care providers and services can literally be out of reach.
Lack of reliable transportation can be a fact of life for some who live in the largely rural, agricultural area. And missed rides to clinics and services in Kailua-Kona mean missed appointments for essential care.
“People from that district want to come out and get services,” said Rebecca Logan, who sits on the board of directors of the West Hawaii Community Health Center. “It’s just a lack of transportation.”
But an upcoming community health fair organized by the Lions Club of Kona and West Hawaii Community Health Center aims to change that by bringing those services into the neighborhood. Its goal is to help bridge the gap between professionals and patients by bringing nearly 50 agencies, providers and nonprofits to Konawaena Elementary School’s cafeteria where local residents will have a chance to connect with medical experts and receive on-site screenings.
The free event takes place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
It’s the fourth year for the health fair, which Lions Club member and health fair co-chairman Eugene Yap said started as an effort to give the community a chance to learn about health opportunities in West Hawaii.
“We need to service our community, because they’re underserved,” said Yap, who is also a member of the Health Center’s board of directors.
Logan, also a co-chair of the upcoming Health Fair, said transportation continues to be a big barrier for delivering health care to communities located away from the region’s hub.
Given that Kailua-Kona is generally the central location for services, people who live in South Kona might lack transportation to access those services, despite a desire and need to benefit from them.
The health fair gives the community exactly that.
“We’re going to bring all these resources and all this education under one roof,” Logan said.
Nearly 50 exhibitors from across the health care sector will be on hand offering education, on-site screening and assistance.
Yap said the amount of interest from health care providers and services has been astounding.
“Everyone who is showing up at this thing is concerned about health,” he said.
Opportunities for screenings include dental care, blood pressure, diabetes and vision. There will also be insurance navigators who will be available to assist attendees.
Other exhibitors include the Hawaii Police Department, who will be offering Keiki ID, legal aid, the Office of Aging and more.
Logan said that given how spread out the communities in West Hawaii are, even longtime residents don’t always know what is available to them.
“What happens is, when we get stuck, who do we go to? And we go, ‘I don’t know,’” she said. The fair, then, is a way for folks to come down and learn what sort of services are available to them in the area.
And what it comes down to, Yap said, is dealing with people’s lives.
“And we’re very concerned, because a healthy community is a vibrant community,” he said. “It’s a productive community. We know that.”
Together, he said, the organizations are working to create change in people’s lives and inspire them to make healthy choices, which is evidenced by the active engagement of the agencies and nonprofits coming together to improve the quality of life and care in West Hawaii.
“It’s a different change in our community; it’s a different feeling,” he said. “People are getting excited about how to change Kona.”