Our quality of life depends on the decisions we make for our health. These decisions are based on the knowledge we possess about preventive measures for non-communicable diseases and cancer, awareness of mental health conditions, and the importance of nutrition and exercise. Without this knowledge, it is difficult for us to make well-informed decisions about our health.

The Aga Khan Health Board for the Northeastern US has made great efforts to provide patient education throughout the region, with specialized sessions led by experts from our Jamat to discuss important issues, including cancer awareness and diabetes management.

The first annual Family Health Fair was held at Richmond Jamatkhana on October 28, 2018. Healthcare providers from across the region gathered together for a day dedicated to providing patient education and counseling to the growing Jamat in Richmond, Virginia. Over 300 Jamati members of all age groups, with a large portion being new immigrants from the Central Asian Jamat attended the event.

Upon entry, families were provided with a directory of free or low-cost health services in the region, as well as a bag with personal care items for men, women, and children. In the main hall, there were informational booths attended by our health care providers to educate members about non-communicable diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, mental health, physical hygiene, family planning, immunizations, child developmental milestones, nutrition, dental care and oral health, and guidance about health insurance, as well as state and federal benefits that are available.

Representatives from external organizations, including Planned Parenthood, Aetna and the Social Security Administration, were available to provide further information and resources to the Jamat. In this setting, participants were free to discuss their concerns and have their questions answered. They were able to build connections between the nutrition recommendations they received and their effects on oral health, child development, and the development of chronic disease, to their impact on mental health and quality of life. Jamati members were educated on the importance of regular follow-ups with a physician and the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle.

A Jamati member commented on the impact of the Family Health Fair, saying: “I have been struggling with my weight for a very long time and I have been following a very strict diet and extreme workouts—but no luck. When I saw the heart surgeon at the health fair, he suggested a couple of things and I am following them 100%. And I am so thankful and grateful to report that I have lost weight…Thank you so much for giving our Jamat opportunities to be healthier!”

Throughout the day, there were also talks led by experts from our region to discuss specific issues including Cancer Awareness, by Dr. Anees Chagpar from Yale University, and Family Planning by Certified Nurse Midwife, Salma Mody, from Planned Parenthood. Nutrition recommendations were also provided by Nasreen Rehmani, a local dietician. Jamati members also participated in physical activity sessions including Zumba classes, Yoga for kids, and Yoga & Mindfulness. These sessions were designed to teach the Jamat about the importance of recommended cancer screening guidelines, the impact of family planning on socio-economic status, and the importance of diet and exercise on your overall health and well-being.

Uninsured members of the Jamat also had the opportunity to meet with physicians from different specialties including, Dr. Iraj Mirshahi (Internal Medicine), Dr. Nadim Geloo (Cardiology), Dr. Malik Meghjani (Geriatrics) and Dr. Farah Alani (Podiatry), to better understand their medical conditions and how to manage them. Over 150 individuals were assessed by a physician, including over 80 individuals who underwent vision screenings by optometrists and ophthalmologists, with support from the Powhatan Lions Club.

Overall, the event was well-received by the Richmond Jamat. Our providers, some of whom traveled for as much as 8 hours from Connecticut to provide their services at this event, truly enjoyed the day and look forward to returning next year. The Jamat has shown a great enthusiasm and thirst for expanding its knowledge about leading a healthy life, with requests for more specialized programming from the Health Board.

“This is #OneJamat. Alhamdullilah, we have qualified dedicated professional volunteers who could help our brothers and sisters who may not have had the time, money or wherewithal to seek these resources otherwise. It was wonderful to see so many Jamati members – from tiny infants to our most senior Golden Club members – coming out with their families to this event”

Dr. Anees Chagpar.