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Health Fair to offer visual mental, physical health learning experience

April 15, 2015

The UW-River Falls Health Fair will yet again take over the Riverview Ballroom in the University Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22, where students can learn about a variety of health-related topics, witness yoga and fitness demonstrations or take advantage of a complimentary back massage.

What students, faculty and staff may not realize about the Health Fair is that it is planned and coordinated by a Student Health intern, and this year’s planner is senior Meghann Witthoft, a triple major in marketing communications, international students and spanish. Witthoft came up with this year’s “marathon” theme.

“The goal was to have people working towards something,” Witthoft said. “College is kind of like a marathon. You’re working towards the finish line of your [college] career and the same goes for your health in college, and I felt that students would be able to relate to this kind of theme really easily.”

To make finishing the college marathon that much easier, students can learn important information at the Health Fair regarding exercising, eating right, and stress management and relaxation. The Health Fair rolls around at a time when students, faculty and staff are gearing up for an upcoming stressful finals stretch, but according to UWRF health education Coordinator Keven Syverson, the Health Fair was slated for April 22 because of the large amount planning that goes into the event.

“It’s a big thing to plan, it’s not something we could pull off in September or October,” Syverson said. “It takes a fair amount of planning, and I think that Meghann is learning quite a bit about planning an event. So, in that way, it gives us a little more time to be ready for it.”

Despite this year’s marathon theme, Syverson said there will still be a large focus on mental wellness at the fair.

“Counselors will be there, and we know mental health issues continue to be more prevalent on campus and the severity continues to increase, and obviously our counselors are well aware of that,” Syverson said. “And it works together, physical health will impact your mental health. Being active, for mild forms of depression, is very important; so it all works together.”

The Health Fair is booked 18 months in advance, and 600-700 people are expected to attend on April 22. Approximately 38 presenters and vendors will have specialists at the event; some will simply have a booth with free handouts and goodies, while others will present on stage. The Health Fair used to be held in the Karges Center, which had limitations in regards to available electrical outlets and a lack of Internet connectivity, while being aesthetically unpleasing.

“There’s also the added perk of having the stage where we can have presenters who want to do demonstrations,” Witthoft said. “We have yoga instructors who come up and do some yoga poses, and it gives us that multidimensional feel so people aren’t just being shown pamphlets.”

Initially, Sodexo was going to provide healthy snacks for attendees, but after the university signed a contract with Chartwells, which will take over UWRF dining services on May 22, Sodexo decided to cut ties with the Health Fair.

“As far as the healthy snacks goes, we are considering a yogurt bar, but at this point nothing is concrete,” Witthoft said.

UWRF Active Minds, a student organization on campus determined to eliminate the negative stigma surrounding mental health issues, will be presenting. The UWRF Pre-Health Society will also be talking about Dan’s Bandana Project, which is aimed at supporting those who suffer from depression and anxiety.

Three key presenters that will be focusing on financial health are First National Bank, WESTconsin Credit Union and Greg Peters’ State Farm Agency. Financial health is a foreign concept to some, according to Witthoft, but she believes attendees will learn a lot from these presenters.

“There’s the goal to have a well-rounded health experience, including financial health, emotional wellness and stuff like that,” Witthoft said. “Our immediate goal is to have a well-rounded experience for students and faculty and other community members.”

Demonstrations will run throughout the four-hour event so all attendees, regardless of arrival time, will be able to catch some of the action on stage.

“I feel like you could definitely get the whole experience in the half an hour to an hour range,” Witthoft said.

This year’s Health Fair will differ from those in past years because of the lack of student organization participation.

“It’s a little bit more local business oriented than student org,” Witthoft said. “We really don’t have that many student orgs. That’s something that I found really interesting, and it affords students a different perspective as opposed to different Health Fairs.”