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Marshall’s inaugural Minority Health Fair, held at the Memorial Student Center, is shown in this 2019 file photo. The third Minority Health Fair takes place Thursday at the A.D. Lewis Community Center in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — An idea three years ago has turned into a mission to bring awareness to and provide solutions for minorities who may otherwise be overlooked when it comes to health care in West Virginia.

Thursday marks the third annual Marshall University Minority Health Institute Minority Health Fair, which will take place from noon until 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, at the A.D. Lewis Community Center in Huntington. UniCare Health Plan of West Virginia is sponsoring the fair.

The event is open and free to the community and will provide health and wellness screenings, community resources and education, COVID-19 testing and vaccinations by Cabell-Huntington Health Department as well as flu vaccinations administered by Walgreens.

“The big picture is bigger than when we started. Now we have vendors coming from Charleston, vendors coming from Fairmont, and we have over 30 vendors confirmed. When we first started, we had 17,” said LaDawna Walker Dean, West Virginia minority health coordinator.

“You hope it continues to grow and you hope it continues to reach the population that you’ve been working with, but you also hope it reaches the people that aren’t normally thought of as the minority. That’s been an awesome experience,” she added.

As a Huntington resident, Dean has always had a heart for helping minorities and says the fair is a way to promote health and make people aware of health disparities they face every day across West Virginia, and specifically in the Huntington community.

“We’re not talking about (just) African Americans and Black (people). That population does bear the burden of health disparities, but we want to reach a lot more people. We want to reach the disabled population. We want to reach the LGBTQ+ population,” Dean said.

To help reinforce the efforts of the Minority Health Office, UniCare will present a $1 million check before the health fair kicks off Thursday.

The funding commitment, Dean said, will help address health equity and disparities, economic stability, social and community services, neighborhood enrichment and education, as well as the many social drivers of health that continue to be barriers to positive health outcomes and overall wellness among minority populations and other vulnerable communities across the state.

Luke Creasy is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @LukeCreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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