Community Health Fair to Offer Free Flu Shots, Health Screenings

University event held in partnership with NAACP, MississippiCare

The Oxford Community Health Fair, set for Saturday (Nov. 11) at the Oxford Activity Center, will provide free flu vaccinations, diapers, meal kits and additional health and wellness resources. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has partnered with the Oxford-Lafayette County Branch of the NAACP and MississippiCare to host an Oxford Community Health Fair on Saturday (Nov. 11).

The free public event is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon at the Oxford Activity Center, 400 Price St.

The event will provide free flu vaccinations, diapers, meal kits and additional health and wellness resources to community members. Resources include screenings to monitor blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol. Attendees will have an opportunity to receive free Narcan training and information from various vendors about topics such as nutrition, mental health, substance abuse and diabetes management.

Students in the School of Pharmacy will conduct diabetes and cardiovascular health screenings. Services will also be available for members of the Spanish-speaking community.

“This is a great opportunity to provide these services to the community while also providing our students with the exposure that they need to be well-rounded practitioners,” said Noa Valcarcel, instructional associate professor of pharmacology and instructional coordinator. “Preventative care is critical for maintaining overall health and reducing the risk of heart-related issues.

“Sometimes, people wait to see a doctor until they have symptoms that are harder and more expensive to treat.”

Dewansia Sutton, clinical pharmacist for MississippiCare, is leading the effort to offer flu vaccines, as well as Narcan training. Narcan is the only medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

“We want to offer this training for individuals who might know someone with substance abuse disorder,” said Sutton, a former student of Valcarcel who graduated from the School of Pharmacy in 2022. “They could have the opportunity to save a life.”

The university’s health fair planning team is made up of representatives from the Grisham-McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, Department of BioMolecular Sciences and Center for Community Engagement.

The event is the latest in a series of events aimed at providing critical resources to the community. In October 2022, the university, NAACP chapter and MississippiCare co-hosted their first health fair. The event distributed 160 coats to children in low-income households, administered flu shots and COVID-19 boosters at no cost, and provided free blood glucose, lipids and mental health screenings.

In June, the partners held a resource fair in conjunction with Juneteenth that provided local residents with information about housing, education, wellness and financial counseling resources in the area.

“This is our third annual health fair in Oxford – along with two in Pontotoc and the resource fair this past summer,” said Karen Allison, MississippiCare community development coordinator. “These events have consistently been a great opportunity for locals to find out about resources in our community that they may have never heard of.”

Participation from organizations and community members has grown since the first event, said Ruth Ball, president of the NAACP branch.

“The growth is wonderful, and I’m expecting the numbers to be even higher this year,” Ball said. “We’re delighted to continue to help provide these services for our community.”

Other campus partners include the PANDAA Lab, Nutrition Clinic, HART Lab, Speech and Hearing Clinic and CUB Lab.

Additional community partners include Communicare, Women of Worth and Excellence, Mid-South Transplant Foundation and the Elder Law Project of North Mississippi Rural Legal Services.

This framework for bringing community and campus partners together is part of the M Partner model, which is a community engagement initiative housed at the Grisham-McLean Institute.

“I am grateful for the many partners who come together to create this robust wellness event for the community,” said Laura Martin, the institute’s associate director and director of M Partner. “We are hoping for a strong community turnout and look forward to having English-Spanish translators present so we can broaden our reach to serve the community.”