How to Host a Health Fair: 7 Strategies for Success
Hosting a school health fair can be a daunting task. As you get started you may think to yourself: How long do I need to plan? How do I know how many people to expect? Where do I begin? The questions can be endless. Luckily, a Chicago elementary school is passing on its knowledge on how to host your very own successful health fair.
Whittier Elementary School in Chicago hosted their first school health fair during the 2013-2014 school year thanks to support from Otho Sprague Memorial Institute. They, too, weren’t sure how to get started, but in the end was a big hit! Because school health fairs come in all shapes and sizes, the Whittier Wellness Team decided to compile seven strategies for success to share with others who are hosting a school health and wellness fair.
1. Recruit parents before doing anything else – As soon as the wellness team decided they wanted to host a health fair, Mrs. Weidner-Carter pitched the idea to the parent committee. She secured 3 parent volunteers who served on the planning committee, communicated about the event to other parents, and even hosted taste testing tables at the health fair.
2. Let students run the show – Students can be powerful advocates for health. Not only do they influence their peers, but they also have the power to influence their parents. If you want parents and students to attend the health fair, enlist student help! The wellness team at Whittier selected 6 trustworthy 8th graders to serve as Health Fair Ambassadors. These students passed out flyers for the event to families after school, spoke about the event in all classrooms two nights before the fair, welcomed attendees when they arrived, and, of course, encouraged their own parents to attend.
3. Provide food – It’s as simple as that. While health fair attendees desire information and resources, they also want free healthy food samples. Sprinkle taste testing stations throughout the fair with healthy and easy snacks for participants. This encourages attendees to make their way through the health fair, stopping by other stations that have valuable information to share.
4. Be strategic about the date and time – If you want parents to attend, consider scheduling the event for right after school until early evening. Parents who pick their children up when the bell rings can attend at the beginning whereas parents who work later can participate at the end. Whittier Elementary also invited students from the after school program to attend, which increased their attendance rate.
5. Keep it simple – It’s easy to get bogged down on providing the ‘extras’ like raffle prizes and health fair ‘passports’. Focus on the content and getting people there. Once you become confident with the basics, slowly build your health fair year over year.
6. Be confident when recruiting local organizations to participate – The hardest part is making the first phone call. Consider having an outline that includes basic details and talking points. Be sure to highlight the benefit to the organization so they know what is in it for them.
7. Give thanks – After the health fair, send a personalized thank you note to the volunteers, organizations and staff members who supported the event. It can be a lot of work to put on a successful health fair, so this is key to expressing gratitude and sustaining their support in future years.
Their health fair attracted over 100 students, 50 adults, and 11 local organizations who provided cooking demonstrations, taste tests, massages, blood pressure screenings, diabetes education and information on the Affordable Care Act. According to the Whittier Wellness Champion, Julie Weidner-Carter, the event was “one of Whittier’s biggest successes this year. Everyone had a great time and enjoyed a variety of resources,” including healthy recipes and information on controlling high blood pressure and diabetes.
For Whittier having a health fair was also about creating a sense of community at their school. Parents, staff, and students left knowing that the healthy changes occurring in school can be supported out of school as well. As a result, the Whittier Health Fair exposed parents and students to how fun and easy health and wellness can be, and helped the school foster a relationship with local community organizations that can support their work in the future.
For more ideas and resources for hosting a health fair, check out the Health and Wellness Fair activity in Game On.