Alaska's medical costs are more than double the national average, and paying out of pocket can really add up. That's where a local nonprofit is stepping in, offering blood work and other preventative screenings to Alaskans at a reduced cost. 

"There was a very intelligent doctor that got together with people in Washington, D.C. and they decided that the way to help our costs of healthcare was to give free screenings and education to people," said Betty Rieth, program director for Alaska Health Fair, Inc. 

The organization has been offering health fairs around the state since 1980. It wraps up the 2019 fall fair season in Anchorage on Saturday. In addition to vision, hearing and glaucoma screening, the event also features flu shots and a variety of low-cost blood work:

  • Blood chemistry test $45
  • Thyroid screening $35
  • Prostate disease screening $25 
  • Blood typing $20
  • Vitamin D screening $50

According to the nonprofit academic medical center Cleveland Clinic, not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone loss, joint pain, fatigue and mood changes. The organization also notes that vitamin D may help prevent some types of cancer. 

"It's very important and in Alaska we don't get much," Rieth said, noting that vitamin D screenings aren't covered on most plans. 

"They try not to pay for that one unless another battery of tests is done beforehand," she added.

After any of the health fair screenings, Rieth says most results are received by mail in two to three weeks. 

"We have a medical team that comes in and they verify that all of the tests are correct before we send them out," Rieth said. "I say take a copy and give it to your practitioner. Many people use it because they like to see how their cholesterol is and they change their lifestyle before they give it to their doctor."

The Anchorage health fair takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the University Center. Fasting is recommended for blood screenings. 

For a full list of health fairs throughout the state, visit the Alaska Health Fair, Inc. website.

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