In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, Anelia Banda, executive director of the Hispanic Wellness Coalition, discusses the Coalition’s expansion into the Vietnamese community and its four annual health fairs. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For more, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.

Alexis Allison: So Anelia, what is the Hispanic Wellness Coalition?

Anelia Banda: The Hispanic Wellness Coalition is comprised of community entities who actually banded together about 20 years ago to produce a health fair targeting the Hispanic population. Some assessments were done. And the results were that, of the groups that live in the Tarrant County area, Hispanics were the ones least likely to have a good health report. 

Several entities got together and said, we have to address this. The assessment indicated that there was a lack of funds, lack of insurance, lack of transportation. When you are living from paycheck to paycheck, you decide what’s more important: Pay the rent, or pay the bills, or buy food. 

We’re still doing the health fair. We partner with organizations to offer as many free health screens to the community that we can. Some of them focus on the family, some of them focus on the individual, and some of them focus on the kids, such as back-to-school physicals.

Free services/screenings offered:

  • Mammograms
  • Well-woman exams
  • Dental exams
  • Kidney screening
  • School physicals
  • Hearing checks
  • Blood pressure screening
  • BMI screening
  • Vision screening
  • Heart health
  • Memory screening
  • Anxiety, depression services
  • Prostate screening
  • COVID-19 education
  • Height/weight screening
  • HIV tests
  • Legal advice

Allison: Didn’t you add a second health fair in the past few years?

Banda: (Several years ago), we were approached by Tarrant County Public Health to discuss producing the health fair that they had: Carnaval de Salud. And in 2017, we produced it by ourselves for the first time. That’s in October, and we offer flu shots at that event in addition to the other services. 

All of the services that we offer at our health fairs are free to the community. There is no pre-registration on our end, there’s no confirmation of insurance. It’s walk through the door and take advantage of the services that are there.

Some of these other organizations do have some of those stipulations. For instance, you do have to register (for the kidney screening) because they want to be able to reply with your results and track you if you have some elevated results. We have (a memory screening) for Alzheimer’s through the Health Science Center and there is no registration requirement there either. We do have Texas Health Resources offering mammograms and woman-wellness exams. So I’m really excited about that. There are qualifications for that, because for the mammograms, you know, it’s a once-a-year process. So if you’ve already had your mammie, they check that. 

We are actually the recipient of a grant from Tarrant County Public Health, and that grant is allowing us to expand into the community offering health care, education. And it allowed us to add two more wellness fairs. So we did one in February targeting the Vietnamese community and the general population in Grand Prairie. And the other event we did in Azle targeting the rural community. So (that grant) allowed us to grow our calendar of events. 

The objective of the grant is to connect the community with the understanding of what COVID is, and help them connect with an organization to trust. 

And I’ll tell you, for me, it was an eye-opening experience, because I was having some work done at my house. And the owner of the company walked up to me, knowing what I do. He pulled me aside and he said, “So this COVID, it’s not real, right? It’s made up.” I was like, “No, no.” He’s from Mexico, so he spoke Spanish. And that’s when it hit me, “Oh my gosh, we have to do something about this. We have to get that message out there. We have to help them understand.” 

This was a big call to action for me. What can we do as a small organization with little-to-no funding? HWC is an organization of one employee — and that’s me. So what is it that I can do in my limited capacity to benefit the community to help them understand that yes, this is not a fluke?

Everything fell into place because, shortly thereafter, we were having meetings with Tarrant County Public Health, and they were looking for organizations to help them with what they’re doing. 

Allison: How big is the grant?

Banda: We were officially approved in mid-November (2021). The grant was for just shy of $250,000.

​​We have been able to produce about six (education) events for the Hispanic community so far. And we’ve been able to produce about two or three events for the Vietnamese communities. 

In fact, we just had two events this past Saturday: one focused on adults and couples about domestic violence and the other one targeted kids in talking about cyber bullying. 

The drawback we have is that we don’t have a bilingual (Vietnamese) interpreter who could be more familiar with the terminology that’s needed on a medical level. We’re looking for a few interpreters to work with us. 

Allison: Well, on that note, if someone is listening to this and would like to be involved in some way with the Hispanic Wellness Coalition, how would they get in touch with you?

Banda: You can go to hispanicwellnesscoalition.org. There’ll be a link there to connect with us. You can connect with us on Facebook, and our office number is 817-735-2784. 

Allison: And then for people who might want to come to an upcoming fair to be screened, how do they find more information out about that specific fair?

Banda: Like I said, we’re very active on Facebook, so if you go to our Facebook page, Hispanic Wellness Coalition and you like it, whenever we add a post, make a change, it should show up on your feed. 

Allison: And just to reiterate, anyone can come to the event. It’s free. They may need to register some information for some screenings, but not all. They don’t need to have insurance.

Banda: Exactly. 

Allison: Is there anything else that you’d like to share?

Banda: I can actually tell you that we are looking to benefit the sensory-deprived community as well. I didn’t realize that that is a completely different path as well. So it’s a big learning experience. 

Allison: Can you give an example of how you might help someone at the fair who can’t see or can’t hear?

Banda: Well, our October event will be sponsored by Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus, and they also have a sign language department. So we’ll be able to have people on hand for (people who can’t hear), to take them around to the exhibitors, the service providers and helping them communicate.

Allison: Thank you for sharing.

Banda: COVID just threw everybody for a loop. The big question was for us, how do we stay viable? We are just a very small organization. And we’re limited in that respect. How do we stay vibrant and viable to benefit the community? Well, we’re finding that out now.

Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact her by email at alexis.allison@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Alexis Allison

Alexis Allison covers health for the Fort Worth Report. When she can, she'll slip in an illustration or two. Allison is a former high school English teacher and hopes her journalism is likewise educational....