LIVERMORE -- Jose Vizueth came early Saturday to the inaugural children's health fair, hoping to get a physical for his son so he can try out for high school soccer and a dental checkup for his daughter.
Prompted by announcements sent home to parents in the Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton school districts, Vizueth and his family were one of an expected 500 families to be served at the Carnaval de la Salud.
"It's helpful for Latinos and people who cannot afford medical treatments," Vizueth said through an interpreter after his son finished his physical in one of the rooms set up at the Robert Livermore Community Center. The 35-year-old Pleasanton father said he has Kaiser Permanente health coverage, but no coverage for vision and dental care, which can be expensive.
The Tri-Valley Health Initiative set up the health fair following after a finding in 2011 that from 1990 to 2010, eastern Alameda County communities had a 58 percent increase in the number of individuals living in poverty. The number of residents receiving food stamps increased from 651 to 4,460 between 2003 and 2011, and Medi-Cal recipients more than tripled from 3,287 to 11,117 during the same time period, according to a needs report.
"The report showed we needed to improve medical access to the underserved population in this area," said Beth Sblendorio, the event coordinator.
The event was held days before the start of school in the three cities to give children an opportunity to meet district medical requirements, such as immunizations and dental screenings. Children were given referrals for free immunizations at Axis Community Health, a medical clinic blocks away.
Often children miss the first few days of class when they show up without basic medical clearances, Sblendorio said.
On Saturday morning, families milled around the fair, visiting medical, vision and dental clinics. Children carrying balloon animals visited health awareness booths, parents signed up for Medi-Cal and Covered California services, and a mariachi band played as dancers performed.
"This is a tremendous event, and members of the community have come out to volunteer and help recognize that if children eat healthy and if they feel healthy they're going to be better learners," said Livermore Mayor John Marchand, as a handful of students did jumping jacks led by a mascot in a heart costume.
Beatriz Osorio, 28, of Livermore, and her husband split up at the fair with their four children to knock out some long-overdue medical exams.
Their eldest son, Christian, 7, was born in Mexico and is not covered by their Medi-Cal insurance, Osorio said, and dental and vision care is expensive.
"It's good for me to help find more options for Christian," said Osorio, as she stood in line at the vision clinic where Christian would finally get the eye exam his school had recommended. "To find better ways to help him."
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.