PUBLISHED: 4:44 PM on Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Reaching out to raise awareness about health issues
Health Fairs & Screenings
Community hospitals are essential providers of healthcare in cities and towns throughout the country. They are in many ways the cornerstone of our healthcare system - and constitute the front line of hospital care for many Americans.

Part of the work that community hospitals do is providing services to rural areas with limited or no access to healthcare services.

Bartlett Regional Hospital's Laura Stats, RN, the Wellness and Community Outreach Coordinator for the facility, coordinates health fairs in small communities in southeast Alaska. She indicates that an important factor in the selection of communities she coordinates with is their true need for assistance. For many reasons, there are a number of communities that lack the infrastructure to successfully put on a health fair single-handedly. The support that she can provide through Bartlett's outreach efforts is appreciated by the communities that she visits.

photo courtesy of Bartlett Regional Hospital
  Laura Stats, a registered nurse, draws blood for a health screening while in Yakutat.
"The health fair in Yakutat would not be possible without Bartlett Regional Hospital's participation" says Rose Mary Ryman, Yakutat Site Coordinator.

In 2007-2008, Stats coordinated health fairs in Tenekee, Gustavus and Yakutat, serving nearly 300 community members. According to Stats, smaller communities for the most part are targeted for assistance.

There are many things to consider when scheduling an event in an outlying community.

Most, if not all of the communities, are accessible by boat or plane only. There is a lot of coordination that occurs in the scheduling of flights and accommodations. Communication occurs via email and telephone and supplies are carried as checked or carry-on luggage. Having a contact or site coordinator in each community is essential.

173 attend Yakutat fair

The health fair in Yakutat is provided in coordination with Alaska Health Fair. According to Ryman, the health fair in Yakutat has grown in participation over the last six years. This year, the fair was held on Saturday, May 3, 2008. Ryman stated that the participation this year was "phenomenal" with 81 children from pre-school to 12th grade and 92 adult participants. There were 49 blood draws performed and 29 exhibits providing information on health related topics. None of this would have been possible without the assistance of the 47 student and adult volunteers and the staff from Bartlett Regional Hospital.

"The fun thing about the health fair in Yakutat is that it is a family event, there is both an adult track and a youth track at the Yakutat Health Fair," says Stats.

The National Honor Students, with the help of their advisors, help put together the health fair and participate with the education portion of the Kids Health Fair focusing on nutrition and healthy activities. "This is a special twist that makes it meaningful for the whole community, older students become mentors to the younger children and as the children participate year after year they learn that taking care of your health is important and can be fun and hopefully a lifetime practice."

Health Fair costs

The cost of providing services by Bartlett Regional Hospital for the three communities this year is approximately $9,000. This includes the cost of air/marine travel, staff salaries and supplies. When donations occur, such as the accommodations donated for Bartlett Staff by Greg Indreland and Martha Donahue of the Second Wind Retreat in Yakutat, it substantially assists in defraying the costs of providing services. The only cost to the participants of the health fairs is for the blood draws, which are at a reduced cost and provided by Alaska Health Fair Inc. otherwise the health information, and advice is free.

Ryman states that "Yakutat is an isolated community and many of our non-native residents have difficulty accessing reasonably affordable medical screening such as those provided at the fair".

Juneau screenings held five times each year

Health screenings are offered in Juneau five times each year. It is very valuable for the Juneau community to have Bartlett offering free screenings to the public.

Non-fasting cholesterol and blood glucose screening along with blood pressure screening are a few of the services provided.

The most important offering for the community is the availability of the knowledgeable Bartlett Regional Hospital staff that is able to assist with the interpretation of results and consult with participants on the spot. Participants with identified risks are able to start right away on making changes to improve their health with good, sound and medically proven information.

"The health screenings are a great way to identify those as risk for diabetes and pre-diabetes," says Stats, and Cynthia Nickerson, Certified Diabetes Educator is on hand to consult with participants and answer questions on the spot. "We are also able to identify those at risk for heart disease and stroke," adds Stats.

In Juneau, health fair participation is between 60 -70 participants per event, totaling over 300 community members being screened each year.

Mark your calendars; the next free health screening provided by Bartlett will take place at the Nugget Mall Saturday, July 12.

For more information about the free health screening or health fair services provided to outlying communities please contact Laura Stats in the Bartlett Education Services Department at 796-8422.