Ignorance is not bliss -- especially if you're sick and need medical treatment in Merced County.
Lillian Sanchez said people need to change the health trends hereabouts.
"We are not headed in the right direction," said Sanchez, community educator at Mercy Medical Center. "We have to act as a community."
Sanchez was among dozens of community health leaders who met in front of the old courthouse steps Thursday for the start of the 10th annual Binational Health Week in Merced. The BHW is one of the largest efforts by federal, state and community-based organizations to try to improve the health of underserved Latino populations in the country.
A health fair, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Merced County Fairgrounds, is one of the main events that's part of the BHW in Merced County, according to Sanchez, who is the chairwoman of this year's series of weeklong, health-related events. Free immunizations, health screenings, workshops and information will be available during the fair, as well as family activities.
A total of 35 separate organizations will participate in the event.
Sanchez said the BHW first started in Merced 10 years ago when many seasonal workers who came from Mexico to work in the Valley got sick and weren't seeking medical treatment. Instead, they would return home to Mexico where they would infect their families as well.
That's when local leaders decided to collaborate with foreign organizations, such as the consulate of Mexico, to help promote health in the community, and make people aware of the resources that are available for them. Sanchez said the more health organizations reveal themselves, the easier it will be for people to know they exist.
Sanchez said the Children's Bill of Rights is a new part of this year's health week.
"We want to put them into action through our events," she said. "To better our children's lives."
Brian Mimura, executive director for First 5 Merced County, said good health is the key to a children's successful development. He said the healthier they are, the better they will do in life.
Mimura said he was pleased to know that the Children's Bill of Rights for Merced County was included in this year's BHW. "We are working to make those rights a reality," he said.
Several local health organizations are part of the task force for the annual event, which is sponsored by The California Endowment, Castle Family Health Centers, First 5 Merced County and Golden Valley Health Centers.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.