Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO) of the Mid-Atlantic Region collaborated with the North Bergen Public Library's Annual Health and Wellness Fair on December 10, 2022, in North Bergen, NJ.  For the 11.1% of the North Bergen residents who live in poverty, the annual free 4-hour event has truly been a blessing. This year's event, which involved the SSSIO, drew more than 900 people who had a great need for free healthcare services, in addition to information on health-related topics like Medicaid and nutrition, and community resources such as low-income and senior housing.

The health and wellness event, which the library has hosted for several years, brought together 35 agencies, including the North Bergen Health Department, the Coalition for Hunger and Hackensack Meridian Palisades Medical Center. The library’s Executive Director, Sai Lakshmi Rao, who is also the Young Adult (YA) Female Advisor for the Mid-Atlantic Region of SSSIO-USA, spearheaded the organization of the event.

Ms. Rao noted that this year, “the fair was even more impactful this year through the partnership with physicians and volunteers from SSSIO and the Hackensack Meridian Palisades Medical Center, who were able to provide specialized services like vision testing, cardiology, and general physical check-ups for the individual health needs of the patients. The invaluable partnership allowed us to better serve the community. More professional medical services could be offered than in the past.”

Dr. Bangaru Raju, an internal medicine specialist from the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Flushing, noted that “by collaborating with a hospital, more testing services become available to check for chronic diseases and ensure continuity of care.” He pointed out that a hospital can direct people to insurance options and other services to detect potential problems. For example, pap smears and mammograms to detect uterine cancer and breast cancer. Additionally, early discovery of latent diseases such as diabetes and heart disease would mean they could be caught in time and treated before they got progressively worse. “If you detect these diseases early, it will reduce the financial burden on the patient and the health care system and reduce the morbidity and mortality rate.”

Dr. Yatish Merchant, the SSSIO Mid-Atlantic Region Medical Director, conducted vision testing and gave out more than 96 free reading eyeglasses at fair. He noted that Sai medical camps try to ensure there is a clinic that would be willing to see individuals for follow-up care. He stated, “Most people who come to our camps don’t have the insurance and the finances to go to a private doctor. Every community hospital and inner-city hospital will have a free clinic that we can refer people to, so when SSSIO collaborates with these hospitals, the course of a person’s life can be changed.”

Additionally, Dr. Merchant noted that the breadth of services offered at the fair made the SSSIO collaboration even more impactful. For example, there was a nutritionist to educate patients on healthy eating and a psychotherapist to address mental problems. Along with a Covid-19 clinic, other services included information on healthy lifestyle such as meditation, yoga, posture testing, smoking cessation and diet. “We even had a representative from a supermarket talk about healthy eating,” said Ms. Rao.