Host a Health Fair to Shine a Spotlight on Your Pharmacy

Health fair

Show the community your pharmacy’s focus on health

Seven years ago, San Joaquin Pharmacy’s first health fair featured about half a dozen booths in the parking lot, and half of those were from the local health clinic. Now, San Joaquin Pharmacy blocks off the street behind the pharmacy in Planada, California, and offers free health screenings (glucose, vision, dental, hearing and blood pressure), free flu shots, performances by kids’ groups, healthy food, prize drawings, awards, and displays from the fire and sheriff’s departments.

“Our health fair has improved our visibility and credibility in the community” both in Planada and throughout the city of Merced, the county seat, said Mary Bass, who owns the pharmacy with her husband, Mike, and manages the annual event. This year, 300-400 people showed up during the three-hour event, in a community with a population of only about 4,500.

“People like to do business with people they know and trust,” Mary Bass said.

Think Big, Plan Well

To organize an event with broad appeal, Mary Bass thinks about “what makes a healthy life, and what makes a better community.” With those guidelines, here’s how San Joaquin Pharmacy has grown its health fair:

  • Choose the date and time strategically. San Joaquin Pharmacy held its first health fair in August, to coincide with its anniversary, but now the event is the second Thursday in October, when the weather isn’t too hot, and it coincides with American Pharmacists Month.The fair is open 4–7 p.m., allowing families to head over after they pick up kids from school or on their way home from work. The time also allows pharmacist Mike Bass to walk around the health fair, while in earlier years he was stuck inside the pharmacy working.
  • Invest in success. San Joaquin Pharmacy usually budgets about $1,000 for the event. In addition to advertising, where most of the cost is for fliers, the pharmacy spends money on a bounce house for the kids, as well as on tables and chairs.
  • Recruit participants. “Every time I went to an event, I tried to recruit people” for the pharmacy’s health fair, Mary Bass said. Participants now include the Lions Eyemobile for vision and hearing screening, and representatives from the California Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program for Medicare beneficiaries.This is the third year the pharmacy’s health fair has been part of Binational Health Week, an outreach effort to the Latino population. After organizers of that event didn’t have much attendance, Mary Bass said she was more than happy to accommodate them in the pharmacy’s health fair, where they offer flu shots, dental checkups and glucose testing. “We bring the people, and they bring the resources,” she said. This year, they provide more than 170 flu shots during the health fair.(The Health Mart® Healthy Living Tour offers seven types of complimentary screenings. See where the tour is headed next here.)
  • Plan year round. As one year’s fair wraps up, she invites the participants back for the following year. Six months in advance, she’ll start sending out “Save the Date” announcements by email, followed by booth applications four months before the event.
  • Work with neighbors and rules. San Joaquin Pharmacy needs permits from the health department, for a public assembly, and for road closure for its event. “You work with them nicely, and they’ll work with you nicely,” Mary Bass said of her neighbors and permit officials.
  • Encourage family participation. In addition to hosting a bounce house for small kids, Mary Bass invites local dance, karate, and other parks and recreation groups to perform during the health fair. “You have not only a bunch of children and teens, but their parents as well,” she said. It all fits with the overall health theme, encouraging kids to be active.
  • Fuel participation with healthy food. The pharmacy is buying the food for an afterschool cooking class to create healthy wraps and provide nutritional information this year. Healthy food is more in line with the theme than the hot dogs and soda served earlier in the fair’s history.
  • Spread the word. A banner outside San Joaquin Pharmacy promotes the health fair, and the pharmacy changes its regular newspaper ad to promote the event too. The pharmacy passes out about 700 fliers, has the health fair announced on public radio, and spreads the word via its connections throughout the community. Now that it is partnering with Binational Health Week, the local ads for that event also included the San Joaquin Pharmacy health fair.“Our local paper, the Merced County Times, usually takes pictures and does an article every year, and one year TV channel 30 came out and did an interview with me and filmed the health fair,” Mary Bass said. “This year we will run it in our ads on the hospital TV screens.”
  • Reward the community. Each booth donates a prize for drawings, which are held throughout the event. The pharmacy gives away many Health Mart materials during the event, too. Mary Bass also announces two Citizen Awards for people making a positive impact on the community, often educators. In addition to certificates, she has given them items such as free passes to movies or nearby Yosemite National Park.

Finally, never stop thinking about ways to improve your event. About six weeks before this year’s health fair Bass had an idea to add a farmers’ market section, since the town doesn’t have a regular one. It’s another way to demonstrate the pharmacy’s full commitment to a healthier community.

Find more tips for planning a health fair from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.