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Health Fair to Check Up on Local Preschoolers

Heath screenings and information will be provided at the Sept. 11 event

Health screenings and information will be provided to nearly 400 children and their parents attending state preschools in the Santa Barbara Elementary School District at a Health Fair from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Franklin Community Center.

The Santa Barbara County Education Office Health Linkages Program is bringing together staff from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, the Family Service Agency, the Community Action Commission, the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, Cottage Hospital Parish Nurses, the Lions Sight and Hearing Center and representatives from the school district to take part.

Doctors, nurses, medical assistants and health advocates will provide vision, hearing, height and weight screenings. Volunteer dentists and hygienists will provide dental screening and fluoride varnish. Additional agencies will be on hand to answer questions and provide health and safety information.

Many professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend periodic health screenings for preschool children.

» Hearing is central to language development, communication and learning. It is estimated that by school age new cases of permanent hearing loss occur in about six per 1,000 children. An estimated 35 percent of preschool children experience repeated episodes of ear infections and intermittent hearing loss.

» Young children with vision problems often don’t know that the way they see the world is not the way everyone sees it, but vision problems affect one in 20 preschoolers. Many abnormalities are treatable if discovered early, while left untreated they can lead to vision loss and blindness.

» Obesity has become a national nutritional concern among low-income preschool children. Among children 2 to 5 years old, the prevalence of obesity increased from 7.2 percent from 1988-1994 to 10.4 percent in 1999-2000.

» Dental disease is prevalent among young children, particularly those from lower socioeconomic populations; however, few preschool-age children ever visit a dentist. Fluoride varnish has been found to be effective in preventing cavities in the primary teeth of young children.

“Early recognition of disease results in more effective treatment. This health fair will not only identify children with health concerns but will provide families with the resources to address specific and general health needs,” Schools Superintendent Bill Cirone said.

— Wendy Shelton is director of communications for the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

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