Local citizens learn importance of figures at fair

People who attended Saturday's Community Health and Wellness Fair, held in the Lee Medical School building on the University of South Dakota campus, learned that sometimes you have to crunch some numbers to know the status of your health.

"This is our third year where it has been this big, and it's the second year that it's been held in the Lee Medical Building," said Amanda Anderson, a wellness nurse at Sanford Vermillion Medical Center.

She quickly rattled of some of the many activities going on at the health fair.

"We have cholesterol screenings, blood sugar checks, pulmonary function screenings that are done by our respiratory therapist, we offer an osteoporosis screen, and we have various groups that offer different health education events that are well received here," Anderson said. "It helps to promote local services here in the community."

"Know Your Numbers" was the theme of the health fair, an event sponsored by Sanford Vermillion, which focused on informing local citizens of the importance of knowing their individual numbers, pertaining to various health tests, and understanding what they mean in terms of overall wellness.

"If you know your numbers – if you come here and you learn what your numbers are in everything from your blood pressure to your blood sugar to your cholesterol and your vision – once you know your numbers, it's hard to ignore them," said Mary Merrigan, public relations director at Sanford Vermillion Medical Center.

Free health screenings included blood pressure, blood sugar, body fat/body mass index analysis, lung/breathing test, Dermascan™ skin damage screening, heel ultrasound – osteoporosis screening and oral cancer screening. Reduced cost screenings available include cholesterol testing and PSA blood screening for men.

The mobile unit of the Community Blood Bank of Sioux Falls was also on hand, accepting blood from willing donors.

The fair serves as a good opportunity healthy people to be assured they are taking the proper steps to maintain that positive status, and it also serves as a chance to for people to learn of areas of possible concern.

"Having high blood pressure, for example, is usually a silent condition, and usually people don't realize they have high blood pressure symptom-wise until it's progressed and may be fairly advanced," Anderson said. "So by getting your blood pressure checked early at these types of events where it's probably a more relaxed setting than your doctor's office, your more apt to catch some of those earlier signs of a problem before it develops into something more serious.

"I also think this event instills in people the importance of overall health awareness," she said. "You walk out of here and you want to be healthier and you want to make the needed lifestyle changes to reach that goal."

Sanford Vermillion partnered with USD SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) as well as students in Health Professions programs at the University of South Dakota to provide the wide variety of screenings and activities Saturday.

"The Health Sciences students are helping with a lot of the screenings, so it's a good experience for them," Anderson said. "Nursing students are helping with some of the screenings, as well as the Physician Assistant students, physical therapy, occupational therapy, dental hygiene, and the med-tech students, and quite honestly, we couldn't do this without them. They are excited about it, and we are excited to have their help."

Conditions outdoor Saturday were cold, a bit windy, with snow falling – in other words, a typical day in Vermillion this winter season. The weather may have played a factor in reducing the number of visitors who initially visited the fair shortly after it began Saturday morning.

Organizers were pleased, however, as more and more people began walking through the medical school building's doors later in that morning to participate in the event.

"We so value the partnership we have with USD to be able to do something like this," Merrigan said. "It gives us the ability, with the help of students and faculty, to present this fair. And using the facilities here at USD is fantastic."

The first health fair, held three years ago, was located at the Sanford Vermillion Medical Center. "It was fun to show off our medical facilities at that event," she said, "but obviously we don't have the space to do an event of this scale at our medical center. We knew after that first year that we wanted to go bigger, and this (the Lee Medical Building) was found to be the perfect spot to do that."

Various booths, displays and other activities of the fair filled not only the ground floor atrium of the medical building, but also the second and third floor hallways of the structures. Many of the classrooms and meetings areas of the medical school were also used for everything from a talk by Sanford Vermillion nutritionist Mary Auch about healthy eating, to a clinic area where Community Health Nurse Jill Munger, with the help of students, could administer flu shots.

"Without the help of the students and this facility, it just wouldn't be the same event," Merrigan said. "We look at ourselves as the organizers, and the day of the event, it's obvious that the strong presence here comes from the students and the vendors."

Those vendors included several health care providers from the Vermillion community and region, who, like Sanford Vermillion, also provide a variety of health services.

"They include eye physicians, chiropractors, and people who offer home medical services," Merrigan said. "We send invitations to them usually early in the fall, and this year, we must have had some people who may have been watching our Web site, that approached us from outside of the area, and they asked to be a part of this, and we are happy to have them here."

The health fair proved to be a learning experience, thanks to information offered at booths sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and the Dakota Hospital Foundation. Representatives of the South Dakota Lions Eye Bank were also present at Saturday's gathering.

She noted that if people generally feel well, they don't visit a doctor, and they may put off routine tests, such as blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring. The health fair proved to be a perfect opportunity for many people to undergo those screenings in a relaxed, informal setting.

"We always hope and advise that if somebody finds that they have numbers that are a cause of concern, all of the clinical folks will inform them that their next step will be to make an appointment with his or her family doctor to have that concern addressed," Merrigan said. "Once you know your numbers, you need to make sure that you take care of any problems they may reveal."

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