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Health And Wellness Fair To Help Address The Barriers That Face Immigrants And Refugees

Kate Hagerty
2018's Refugee and Immigrant Health and Wellness Fair welcomed more than 200 attendees.

health and wellness fair in downtown Pittsburgh this weekend aims to connect the immigrant and refugee communities with service providers.

The more than 40 vendors will include medical, pregnancy, mental health, food banks and legal service providers. Organizer Matthew Hess of AJAPO refugee services said these types of organizations are often strapped for the resources necessary to serve diverse populations.

“They’re very open to communicating effectively, but very few will actually have a plan for doing so,” he said. “But it is changing, people are willing to work with people.”

As part of the fair, AJAPO and community partners are supplying vendors with some training and document translation that they’ll be able to use on an ongoing basis. 

Hess said communication is vital when it comes to health and wellness, and said he is seeing some improvement in hospitals, and other organizations which are required to provide translation. But he said places like pharmacies aren’t required to provide those services, and as a result, he often encounters families who incorrectly use or don’t understand their prescriptions.

Hess said in addition to language barriers, cultural differences and transportation are also significant challenges for immigrants and refugees seeking wellness resources, as well as general awareness of what is available to them.

This is the first time in the event's four years that AJAPO is taking the lead in its organization. It was originally coordinated by Northern Area Multi-Service Center, or NAMS. That refugee service organization was forced to close last year due to low refugee resettlement numbers.  

The free event is open to the public, and will also include food and children's activities. It's sponsored by UPMC, Highmark and Allegheny Health Network. 

The Refugee and Immigrant Health and Wellness Fair is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the August Wilson Cultural Center Saturday.