An annual health fair for school-age kids in Lake County will shift its focus as organizers encourage families to find a "medical home" to improve long-term health.
The Kids 1st Health Fair, a back-to-school event that has been held since 1992, is scheduled for Aug. 6 and will include an "educational component" to help low-income families identify health care professionals that meet their needs.
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But partners who host the event also are considering other possibilities to transition out of the health fair approach to link families and care.
"It's going to change, but at this point it's too early to say this is the last fair," said Leslie Piotrowski, spokeswoman for the Lake County Health Department.
A committee composed of representatives from the health department, the United Way of Lake County and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science will discuss ideas for possible future changes.
The Kids 1st Health Fair is a one-stop shop of free services, such as immunizations, dental screenings and physicals for children up to ninth grade.
It was organized to address the issue of children not having completed required medical services and being excluded from school. Single-day attendance has reached about 2,000 children, and more than 30,000 have been served since it started.
But according to the health care planning committee, the introduction of the Affordable Care Act and other factors have provided a greater level of available comprehensive care.
"These recent changes in how care is accessed and delivered places greater importance on educating the consumer to choose a more long-term solution for their families' health care needs," the committee informed the Lake County Board of Health.
This year's fair will offer traditional services but will also include some type of educational features to help families identify health care professionals that meet their needs, according to the committee.
"It's a more comprehensive way of people receiving health care instead of going to a health fair and getting some shots," Piotrowski said.
The group also plans to meet with community leaders to identify "emerging needs and services" to allow it to continue to serve low-income children and families "in the most relevant ways" in 2015.
"As we move forward, our plan is to transition out of a health fair approach after the August 2014 event to other community efforts that will assure that our Lake County families utilize a consistent and accessible medical home," the committee told the board of health.
How that will be done is still in the discussion stage and any future changes would need board of health approval, Piotrowski said.