No one will deny that the politics around healthcare reform – particularly leading up to the passage of the healthcare reform bill earlier this year – was tumultuous.

Let’s put healthcare politics aside for a moment, however, and talk about what a determined and sustained act of civic leadership can do to bring basic healthcare to people who need it.

Eighteen years ago, the Junior League of Salt Lake City started an annual, two-day event for Utah families needing routine medical services and community assistance information.

The event, called CARE Fair, brings together more than 50 different community agencies to provide free medical examinations and immunizations as well as physicals, hearing, vision and dental screening, diabetes and cholesterol screening, breast exams and HIV testing. Vouchers for free mammograms off-site are made available. Participants may be eligible for health- and safety-related items such as car seats and bike helmets.

CARE Fair is structured to overcome barriers like time, language, financial, and transportation constraints that prevent some Utah families from receiving many basic health and human services by bringing together community agencies and medical service providers at one time and in one place.  And the majority of medical services is provided free of charge!

Does it work?  An immigrant from El Salvador now living in Salt Lake City said he doesn’t know what he and his family would do without the medical and dental services they receive annually at the CARE Fair.  “My insurance doesn’t help me at all.  This is something we need, especially Spanish people with low incomes. It’s something beautiful and healthy. I love it.”