Preventative Measures: Area hospitals maintain community health through educational outreach

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY BUSINESS
Taylour Scanlin poses outside of the Carthage Area Hospital Health Fair, held at the Farmers Market Pavillion.

BY: Doug Buchanan
Despite incredible advances in medical knowledge and techniques, it is still true that prevention is the best method of maintaining good health and well-being. Let’s face it: By the time you walk into a hospital, you’re already in trouble. But there are many ways to maintain good health without having to check yourself into a hospital or travel by ambulance to the emergency room – and health fairs can be some of the best places to find out how.

                Usually sponsored by hospitals and medical centers, health fairs are enjoyable, relaxing venues that are great for learning not only about how to get healthy, but how to stay that way, too.

                “Contrary to what some people may think,” explains Carthage Area Hospital Marketing Director Taylour Scanlon, “we want to keep people out of the hospital. We’re encouraging prevention.”

                The hospital held its annual health fair in mid-July, with upwards of 100 people coming out to the Carthage Farmers Market Pavilion for health screenings, helpful information and even a healthy picnic lunch.

                The Carthage health fair – as with most health fairs throughout the region – is a one-stop shop for assessments and information about personal well-being and the sponsoring hospital’s offerings. In Carthage, attendees were able to participate in posture and fall screenings with the therapy services team, learn about collaborations with other health care facilities, meet specialists representing a broad array of medical care disciplines, learn about the hospital’s home care management program, and much more. There were even activities and giveaways for children.

                The idea behind health fairs is to make learning about wellness fun – and to take the fear factor out of the equation by developing a relationship between health care facilities and individuals.

                “We have a community outreach event almost every month,” said Scanlon, adding that health care providers recognize that women tend to make most of the health care decisions for families. That’s why many of the hospital’s community education initiatives target women. These events are part of the hospital’s mission to “increase awareness of our quality, patient-centered services focusing on providing care to the local population.”

                Some upcoming events in Carthage Area Hospital’s Community Engagement Series include the Think Pink Breast Cancer Luncheon in October, a diabetes prevention luncheon in November and in December a focus on how to deal with holiday stress. For more information about these or other events in the series, contact Emmylu Royer at 315-519-5907 or go to carthagehospital.com.

                Carthage isn’t the only local hospital taking advantage of health fairs to educate the public about health and wellness, though.

                “ Canton-Potsdam Hospital is proud to be a sponsor of so many worthy community events; from health fairs of course, to organized Walks/Runs, golf tournaments, and other outreaches that benefit our community either through direct education or fundraising,” said Deborah Chase-Lauther, the hospital’s community relations manager, “from Seniorama, this year to be held at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort, to the Senator Patty Ritchie Fair in Ogdensburg, and everywhere in between, including the St. Lawrence County Fair in Gouverneur. If there’s a community wellness event happening, you can bet that we will make every effort to be there, bringing with us healthy giveaways such as sunscreen, and information on health and well-being. Screenings such as bone density, grip strength testing, and blood pressure measures are also available whenever possible.”

                Chase-Lauther said the hospital’s top priority is connecting with patients – and health fairs are great venues to do just that.

                “Connecting with our community is vital to CPH,” she explained. “Some people may be intimidated to seek out help on a variety of topics in a health care setting, but a health fair is a great place to gather information informally. It is relationship-building with our community. …  We encourage our community to take a proactive stance with regards to their health, which is why it is wonderful to see great turnouts at health fairs.”

                Chase-Lauther also recognizes the vital role women play in the health-care decisions for families.

                “Women tend to be the decisionmakers in a family where health issues are concerned,” she said. “They gather the information, ask the relevant questions, and often make the health care appointments for family members.”

                One creative way to help get information out, said Chase-Lauther, is to zero in on children.

                “Our six pediatricians on staff are very enthusiastic about promoting children’s health issues, such as nutrition, exercise, and a balanced lifestyle, and we use our team of puppets at health fairs to help children feel more comfortable approaching a health-care provider,” she said.

                The hospital’s next big event will be a party in August at the North Country Children’s Museum in Potsdam. 

                “It’s going to be a great time for kids heading back to school,” she said.

                Lewis County General Hospital is also reaching out to the community via health fairs and other avenues, according to Christina Flint, the hospital’s community relations specialist. In addition to its main health fair in April every year, the hospital’s wellness team maintains an education/awareness booth at the Lewis County Fair, cancer screenings throughout the year, a first aid booth at the annual cream cheese festival, Paint the County Pink (a breast cancer awareness community event held the first week of October), as well as support groups and educational classes on various topics.

                “Many LCGH employees also give their time, help plan and attend various health events, and offer screening and testing services throughout Lewis County,” said Flint. “Health education events and free health screenings focus on prevention and awareness of programs and services for community members to improve their health. This also provides community members that are under- or uninsured access to free health screenings.”

                Flint agrees that prevention is a key component of wellness.

                “Many health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, when diagnosed early can improve the quality of the patient’s life,” she said.

                As for focusing on women in particular, Flint said the hospital and its staff understand the unique challenges facing women in the community.

                “Balancing the needs of home, a growing family and career can mean little time for women to take care of themselves,” she said. “Helping women take care of themselves by offering education and screening opportunities means they can take care of what matters most to them. Women don’t have to travel out of the area for quality women’s health care – it’s available right here in Lewis County.”

                No matter where you live in the north country, you’re never far from a health-care facility that is staffed with professionals willing and able to connect with you – not just when you walk into a hospital, but in locations throughout the area where you’ll find that, as the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”