Intrepid health screeners bring services to fairs and fairways

October 15, 2013

Innovative outreach
Visit a photo slideshow to see a variety of places CHA members provide health outreach in their communities.


Ministry members working to improve the public's health and prevent illness know people don't always take the time to visit a doctor's office, clinic, hospital or community health fair for health screenings and other preventive care. So providers are getting creative — venturing out to places where people gather for leisure pursuits and turning waiting rooms into party rooms.

Here are a few examples of outreach efforts that adapt to people's lifestyles:

Corn dogs and cholesterol checks

When 56-year-old Phyllis Caywood visited the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville in recent weeks, she checked out show horses, student artwork and displays of fresh fruits and vegetables.

She also stopped by a KentuckyOne Health exhibit to have her blood pressure and cholesterol checked. She schedules office visits with her doctor, but sees the screenings at the state fair as a good spot to check that her numbers are where they should be. "I just love it," she said of the screenings at the state fair. "It's inviting, and there's not a lot of pressure here."

About 500,000 people visit the Kentucky State Fair, and KentuckyOne Health sees it as a great opportunity to cross paths with the public, some of whom don't routinely see a doctor. "It brings out some of the folks more in need of health care screenings," said Dr. Jesse Adams, a cardiologist who was among those meeting with visitors on the fair grounds. "Public outreach, public health, we know that's a territory where we can make big improvements in people's health." Adams said some fairgoers want a specific screening, or drop by to ask a question. He's been able to clear up misconceptions about healthy activity levels and how diet affects health.

'Mamm parties'

Via Christi Clinic in Wichita, Kan., hosts mammography parties — or "mamm parties," as they're known — where groups of female friends or coworkers gather after 5 p.m. for light refreshments and breast cancer screenings.

While each woman has her mammogram in private, partygoers socialize in a public space in the clinic's radiology area. While soothing music plays, the women enjoy massages, paraffin wax treatments for their hands and beauty consultations. They sample cheese and chocolate, and sip wine, water or soda. Nurse and breast center coordinator Terri Leschuk said of the parties, "Something not considered fun can be a lot more relaxing with friends, coworkers and sometimes family." Women don't get their test results that night; those whose mammograms are normal receive a letter with their results. If a woman's mammogram shows abnormal results, or a radiologist indicates a need for additional testing, she's called to schedule a follow-up appointment.

Par for the course

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, men over the age of 50 are more likely to be diagnosed with — and to die from — melanoma than women in the same age group. To reach men in this target age group, Dr. Rebecca Tung and nurse Marsha Moran, both with the division of dermatology at Maywood, Ill.-based Loyola University Health System, conducted skin cancer screenings in June at the Cress Creek Country Club in Naperville, Ill. The screening was open to all comers.

The Loyola clinicians also used the event to educate about sun safety for golfers, give out sunscreen samples and recommend an SPF of at least 30. They spoke about the importance of reapplying sunscreen every two hours and wearing protective clothing when in the sun, including a wide-brimmed hat. Tung said some men avoid going to see a doctor in an office setting. "I think they really appreciated having it right there on the course," she said. (The screenings were done inside the clubhouse.)

In the summer of 2012, Loyola dermatologists screened more than 650 people over two days at North Avenue Beach in Chicago. In a few cases, Tung has recommended follow-up visits, where the patients underwent skin biopsies. The community screenings have led to skin cancer treatment in some of those patients, she said.

RPMs and PSAs

In Missouri, SSM Health Care St. Louis conducts prostate cancer screens at the Dave Sinclair car dealership showrooms in St. Louis County and nearby St. Charles County three times each September to coincide with prostate cancer awareness month. Men between the ages of 50 and 69 can have blood drawn and sent for analysis of their prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, a protein. The blood level of PSA is often elevated in men with prostate cancer.

The founder of Dave Sinclair Automotive Group, the late Dave Sinclair Sr., was a prostate cancer survivor who credited the PSA test with saving his life. The grateful Sinclair invited screeners to set up shop in his showrooms, explained Lisa Glarner, director of service line marketing for SSM Health Care St. Louis.

This year the health system screened about 240 men, who often browse the latest automotive offerings while they're at the dealerships, too. The men don't get the results of their blood test on site, but nurses contact men with elevated PSAs and explain the importance of following-up with their doctor. They can link men to a physician, if need be. Men whose PSAs are in the normal range receive a letter in the mail with their test results.

Drive-in flu shots

To make flu immunizations convenient and to assist elderly people who may have limited mobility or prefer not to go out in cold or rainy weather, Mercy Medical Center of Canton, Ohio, offers the "Drive-In Flu Clinic," in the parking lot of its Mercy Homecare location in North Canton, Ohio. This year, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 23, people can pull up in their car, get registered and have a flu shot administered, all without getting out of their auto. The shot recipients are given a card signed by a nurse with the date they received their flu or pneumonia vaccine, the vaccine's manufacturer and lot number and the location on the body where they had the injection. They turn this card over to their personal physician to add to their medical record.

Mercy bills Medicare if appropriate, or the patient can pay $25 for the shot. "Our goal is to get anybody and everybody immunized," said nurse Jean Loughry, clinical manager of Mercy Homecare. People are prescreened with a series of questions to make sure it's OK for them to get the vaccine. Mercy nurses conduct two additional flu shot clinics in October at Church of the Lakes in nearby Jackson Township. The drive-in clinic reaches about 25 people; the others about a hundred.

Mercy's drive-in clinic is small in scope, but it has built a following. Now in its sixth year, it sees several repeat customers from year to year. While the event is advertised, "they call and ask when we're going to have the clinic this year," Loughry said.


Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.