By JD Herman

Last month, Westbury High School played host to Congressman Al Green’s annual health fair, ‘Green Light to Healthy Living’. A family-friendly event with activities to entertain everyone–live music, free food, even a photo booth to capture one of the last days of summer. The event highlighted preventative medical care by providing free immunizations, glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure checks, and sign-ups for dental screenings. Residents of the Brays Oaks Management District also received assistance with Medicaid and CHIP applications.

The event also provided fun for kids by offering free backpacks, school supplies, and one lucky winner even went home with a new bicycle. The free cotton candy was also a big hit! Most importantly though families of Brays Oaks Management District had the opportunity to get free immunizations and discuss other needs with healthcare professionals and community partners.

‘Green Light to Healthy Living’ has provided positive impacts in the community for 15 years and highlights Congressman Green’s commitment to his constituents. The partnership with Westbury High School in particular, has benefitted many people in southwest Houston, especially kids. “The Health Fair assists our own school community as well as the greater community surrounding Westbury,” notes Westbury High School Principal Susan Monaghan. “Students are able to get their immunizations before the start of the school year, and families are able to learn about other resources available in the Westbury Community.” Principal Monaghen enjoys working with the Congressman and his associates as he has “the best interest of helping and giving to others.”

The event also had the support of the Houston Independent School District. Principal Monaghan cited the critical help of community partners as well as Westbury’s Engagement Representative Jeri Brown. “Jeri is so connected to all aspects of the Westbury area and the needs of the families,” says Principal Monaghan. “She has been a huge asset to our school and to those who live in this neighborhood – we could not do ‘Green Light to Healthy Living’ without her!”

Aside from free immunizations the event also focuses on primary care and healthier living as a means to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits.

ER visits are one of the most expensive options when seeking medical care. Over the last decade, the costs of ER visits have increased dramatically. Out-of-pocket expenses for patients have also been on a steady rise. Given that 60 percent of Americans do not have $1000 in savings to cover emergency expenses, it is easy to understand how vulnerable populations are adversely impacted. Yet, despite these high costs, ER visits continue to be the most frequently used type of outpatient service. In 2016, there were nearly 145.6 million ER visits. Of these, a study by Blue Cross and Blue Shield noted, 29.8 percent could potentially be treated in walk-in clinics. Some estimates equate the cost of “avoidable” emergency room visits at approximately $32 billion annually. Experts suggest reducing this national trend will improve quality of care and lower overall costs. Raising awareness around emergency room alternatives is another one of the primary goals of the health fair. “We aim to foster a culture of healthy living by letting people know the services available to them and the importance of preventative care,” says Congressman Green.

Brays Oaks is thankful for the efforts of Congressmen and looks forward to next year’s ‘Green Light to Healthy Living’ event.