The 13th Annual Health Expo, held by the Center for Closing the Health Gap, will take place April 30 in Washington Park. Everyone in attendance will have the opportunity to learn about ways to improve their lifestyle. The Health Gap center embodies the saying “Live Healthy, Live Long” and that’s the message they want everyone who attends the Health Expo to understand. Over the years, the expo has expanded from around 1,000 guests to more than 15,000, teaching thousands that “happy health is a state of mind.”

Closing the Health Gap is a nonprofit organization that focuses on disease prevention and improving racial and ethnic health disparities through advocacy, education and community outreach. Its major partners are The Christ Hospital, Mercy Health, UC Health, TriHealth, City of Cincinnati and Interact For Health, and, along with more than 600 volunteers, the organizations come together each year to make it possible to provide screenings to the community during the Health Expo. More than 15 types of health screenings will be available, including stress tests, cholesterol, BMI, glucose, blood pressure, bone density, mammograms, prostate, dental, vision, lung capacity, colon screens, Hepatitis C, mental health and HIV/AIDS. There are even hearing and vision screenings available for infants. “Arriving to Washington Park in the morning and just seeing people lined up for screenings is an incredible feeling to know we are making a difference,” says Renee Mahaffey Harris, chief operating director of the Health Gap.

This is an event the whole family can enjoy and from which they can benefit. There’s fun, food and fitness for adults, as well as children. Each year there is a different source of entertainment; last year there was a live performance by Bootsy’s Rubber Band. This year, the popular 1970s American funk band The Ohio Players will be live at the park. “We thought people were just coming out to enjoy a free concert, but we conducted surveys and studies show that the community comes out for the free screenings, not the entertainment,” says Harris. Every 30 minutes there are a series of different physical activities to partake in, including Zumba, yoga and much more.

There are giveaways for completing screenings. Participants just have to fill out a form that states if they, for example, get a certain amount of screenings, they’ll receive a box of tissues. The reason behind this is to give people that extra push to encourage them to participate. “People love free stuff. The word is free—it could be a phone case, anything, it doesn’t matter. They’ll take it if it’s free. Our goal is to make sure we give no one an excuse,” says Cassandra Robinson, exhibitor coordinator.

Last year, it rained all day during the expo and still more than 3,500 attendees came out. “I get overwhelmed when I’m walking the park and see all the people we’re doing things for. It just brings tears to your eyes because they may not get that anywhere else,” says Robinson.

Local physicians volunteer to assist with any questions or concerns a participant may have. “There’s also an ‘Ask the Doctors’ event going on all day in the park. Once you’ve gone through your screening, you can take your results to the doctor and ask them, ‘What does this mean?’” she says.

This long day of events allows the center to reach out to the community. “We’re doing all this at no cost to you, just be there,” says Robinson.