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Overview of “Health Fairs and Preconception, Prenatal and Child Health” Manual from the Best Start Resource Centre


I Summary and Overview
II Key Findings on Effectiveness
III Strategies for Planning Health Fairs
IV Conclusion
V References

--submitted by Louise Choquette, Bilingual Health Promotion Consultant, Best Start Resource Centre

I. Summary and Overview

The Best Start Resource Centre has a new manual on health fairs entitled, “Health Fairs and Preconception, Prenatal and Child Health.” The manual offers information on the effectiveness of health fairs and promising practices used by agencies offering health fairs. The manual will be useful to organizations considering offering a health fair, especially one focusing on preconception, prenatal and child health issues.

The manual is available for download at

To develop this manual, Best Start Resource Centre:

  • performed a literature review on health fairs
  • consulted with a number of organizations offering health fairs
  • engaged a number of service providers who offer health fairs to review the document.

Although this manual is not a comprehensive review of literature, programs or resources, it does offer helpful advice on planning health fairs.

II Key Findings on Effectiveness

There is very little literature on the effectiveness of health fairs in general, and even less on prenatal and child health fairs. None of the studies had comparison populations, or compared the effectiveness with other approaches to prenatal and parenting education. There is some evidence for the effectiveness in increasing awareness, sharing educational information and forming partnerships. Health fairs do provide a very good way to connect people to services. There is less information to support behaviour change, but the studies do point to some effectiveness, at least in the short-term.

For example, the Middlesex-London Health Unit did a follow-up evaluation with participants a few weeks after a prenatal health fair to assess whether or not participants had made any health changes. Seventy-nine percent of the women who participated in the follow-up telephone survey indicated that they had made healthier choices for themselves and their baby as a result of attending a prenatal health fair. These changes were related to a number of topics, including: better nutrition, folic acid intake, vitamin intake, registration for prenatal classes, using coping skills, choosing to breastfeed, and improvements in physical activity.

Based on the current available literature, health fairs reach a higher proportion of people with middle and high incomes and a lower proportion of people with low incomes. They may not be as effective in reaching populations at higher risk. Alternative health promotion strategies such as prenatal nutrition programs or teen prenatal classes may be more appropriate to reach these groups.

It appears that prenatal health fairs reach a low proportion of couples before pregnancy and in the early stages of pregnancy. This may have to do with the timing: in many areas, prenatal fairs are only offered once or twice a year. In addition, men and women may not wish to let others know of their intent to start a family, especially in smaller communities. Additional promotion through health care providers to reach women and their partners in early pregnancy may be needed.

Health fairs need to be part of a continuum of services such as first trimester prenatal packages, prenatal education for labour and delivery, education through prenatal care, support to families at risk, home visiting, education through Early Years Centres, etc., in order to improve the reproductive and child health outcomes.

In summary:

  • There are not many studies on the effectiveness of health fairs.
  • Because each health fair is different, it is difficult to give a general rating of effectiveness.
  • The effectiveness will depend on the goals, objectives and planning of the fair.
  • The health fair is one of many sources of information for people and can be part of a comprehensive health promotion approach.

III Strategies for Planning Health Fairs

The manual provides tips that can be used to organize and promote health fairs. Some of the tips are applicable to all health fairs and others are more specific to prenatal and child health fairs. The following areas are covered:

  • Getting Started
  • Health Fair Venue and Timing
  • Health Fair Planning Logistics
  • Health Fair Staffing and Volunteers
  • Selecting and Supporting Exhibitors
  • Planning Displays
  • Screening at Health Fairs
  • Promoting Health Fairs
  • Offering Workshops at Health Fairs
  • Evaluating Health Fairs
  • Prenatal Health Fairs
  • Child Health Fairs

Stories of actual health fairs are also included in the manual, to provide practical ideas and share successes.

The appendices contain a number of checklists and samples to save re-inventing the wheel. The Best Start Resource Centre wishes to thank all the organizations who provided these useful tools. Included are:

  • Timeline Chart
  • Health Fair Exhibitor Policies
  • Exhibitor Contract
  • Design Recommendations for Displays
  • Public Service Announcement
  • Prenatal Health Fair Participant Evaluation
  • Exhibitor Evaluation
  • Post Telephone Survey

IV Conclusion

Health fairs are a good way to reach a large number of people and increase their awareness of the issues and the services offered in their community. They offer direct contact between service providers and the general public. It is important to have clear objectives, to plan well ahead, to promote adequately and to deliver quality information. The evaluation of the fair will help in planning subsequent fairs.

Health fairs should be part of a larger comprehensive health promotion strategy and reinforce messages disseminated through other methods such as prenatal classes, health care visits, home visits, etc. They can be helpful to reach a segment of the population and complement their knowledge on the issues.

V References

Fioze L., Nanson, C., (2002). Waterloo Region Prenatal Health Fairs Overall Evaluation Report.

Gaylor, E. (2007). Calling All Three Year Olds Kindergarten Registration 2007 Evaluation Summary. Prepared for the Huron Perth Healthy Babies Healthy Children Early Identification Committee. Available at:

McHale, H., Jenkins, K., Davies, M., (2001) Prenatal Health Fairs Make a Difference: Telephone Survey Findings, Public Health and Epidemiology Report Ontario (PHERO), Vol 12, Number 8, September 29, 2001. Available at:

The Health Communication Unit (THCU). (2003). Effectiveness of Health Fairs, Displays, Posters. Toronto. Available at

The Health Communication Unit (THCU). (2007). Health Fairs Update – 2003-2007. Toronto. Available at