By mid-morning Friday, it was difficult to find a parking spot in the lot at the First Church of the Nazarene on Mill Creek Road. The second Memorial Health System community health fair was underway, with scores of people meandering through the church gymnasium, checking information at booths and talking to health professionals.
“These events are extremely important, sometimes it’s the best way to get information out about all the new things, our abilities to care,” said Memorial general surgeon Dr. Warner Wang. “People tell their families about what they see and learn here, it’s really useful, it has a lot of value.”
Wang, who offered the crowd a short presentation on the health care system’s robotic surgical procedures, said he and some of his colleagues have recently become particularly focused on diseases of the esophagus, which are becoming increasingly common.
“People think it’s always about cancer or acid reflux,” he said. “Heartburn is common, but it’s a very complex disease process. Heartburn can be more than a nuisance. The regular exposure to stomach acid in the esophagus can lead to esophageal cancer. One in five people have heartburn, and and esophageal cancer is now the tenth most common type.”
In response to that, Memorial is taking a team approach.
“We’re only steps away from having a heartburn center, a multi-disciplinary approach with ear, nose and throat doctor, surgeon, gastrointestinal specialist and primary care physician,” he said.
As Wang talked, people attending the fair picked up pamphlets, talked to teams of practitioners and experts at more than 20 information booths, and took blood pressure measurements and other health screening tests.
Linda Miller, 70, said she came in from Lowell to attend the fair.
“I just enjoy hearing different aspects of health issues. It’s important to me – I want to stay healthy,” she said. “I found out I can get the Silver Sneakers program for free. My husband and I have been going to the wellness center, and now we won’t have to pay for it. Staying active is the key, and the trainers there are awesome.”
Amy Hacker, 45, who lives in Stanleyville, and her mother, Dora Copen, 71, of Marietta, came to the fair together. Copen is diabetic.
“I came to get more information about it, and I especially liked the cooking classes,” she said. “It just helps me be more aware of what I can do. It seems now like if you’re not diabetic, then you’re pre-diabetic.”
“Everyone has been very informative,” Hacker said. “There is one group that gives you a quiz, sort of like a Jeopardy board, that gives you information about your answers. It was interesting. I learned something there.”
Hacker said going to the fair was time well spent.
“I hope they realize what a good thing they’re doing,” she said.
Physical therapist Amy Boles demonstrated a balance exercise for a woman, standing on one foot and extending her arms. Both laughed, and the women walked on to the next table.
“We’re doing balance, strength and memory, showing people what is available for them,” Boles said. “The general population, those who haven’t experienced physical therapy, probably have no idea what we do.”
Her unit at Memorial includes physical, occupational and speech therapists, she said.
When asked what she wanted people to take away from an encounter with her at the health fair, she said, “Eat right and exercise, cultivate good posture, and more – in our society now, sitting is the new smoking, the cause of many health problems. Stay active.”
The health fair Friday was the second held by Memorial, and marketing director Sarah Holt said it grew considerably this year, estimating that up to 150 people attended.
Michael Kelly can be contacted at [email protected]
Second annual Memorial Health System community health fair
• More than 20 booths and presenters.
• Screenings, health information, presentations.
• As many as 150 people attended.
Source: Memorial Health System.