National publicity creates interest in observances

Opportunity for community outreach, education

A national health observance day, week, or month is a good opportunity for local community outreach, says Valerie Eldred, RN, community health representative at Winter Haven (FL) Hospital.

The national publicity these events generate captures the public’s attention, making them easier to promote. Also, it is much easier to concentrate on one health topic at a time. In the past, Winter Haven Hospital held an annual health fair but it got too big. It was difficult to register and conduct lab work for 300-600 people.

"We thought that we would do better if we concentrated on the big diseases that we see in this area such as diabetes and cardiac disease," says Eldred.

February is "American Heart Month" therefore, the hospital hosts a "Heart Smart Day" the first Saturday of the month. On this day, people who pre-register by calling the hospital’s health connection phone line have blood work and a risk assessment completed for a fee of $30. The assessment includes body mass index, blood pressure, and pulse rate; and the blood work includes a chemistry and lipid profile.

At the end of the month, people are invited back to get the results of the lab work, and a speaker or a panel discussion is scheduled. This year, a panel of physicians and a cardiac nurse discussed risk factors for cardiac disease in general and pertaining to women, minorities, and people with diabetes.

Before the education session, a nurse goes over the results of the lab work with each participant to discuss the areas in which he or she is doing well and where he or she might make some improvements. Everyone is encouraged to share the results with his or her physician, and at times referrals are made. Results are mailed to those who do not wish to attend the special session.

If someone’s lab result reveals extremely high blood sugar or lipids, the lab notifies Eldred, who pulls the individual’s paperwork and telephones him or her to make sure he or she is aware of the health problem. She does not wait to discuss the problem when results are distributed to all participants.

Education is not limited to the last Saturday of the month when a speaker is scheduled. On the first Saturday of the month, when people come to the hospital for the blood work and assessment, they have the opportunity to visit a variety of displays pertaining to cardiac health that are organized by various departments within the health care system. For example, behavioral health is on hand to do a stress assessment, the respiratory department brings a model depicting the lung of a smoker, and a nutritionist and diabetes educator are available.

On "Heart Smart Day," logistics are extremely important because space is limited. Approximately 300-350 people scheduled for blood work attend the event from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m; therefore, a system to move people through quickly had to be implemented. Paperwork is completed in one room, assessments in another, and blood work in a third room. The educational stations are set up in hallways along the exit route. Participants also have access to a breakfast buffet following their blood work that includes fruit, bagels, juice, and coffee.

Beyond prevention

While health observance months usually focus on prevention and early detection, Winter Haven Hospital stages an event during Diabetes Awareness Month in November that focuses on diabetes self-management. It hosts a diabetes health fair with the aid of in-house specialists, such as podiatrists who examine feet, as well as vendors demonstrating the latest products. Some vendors also conduct tests such as blood glucose measures.

The nutritionist usually is on hand to help with cooking demonstrations that teach people with diabetes how to fix foods that taste good and are healthy.

Also during November, a physician gives a community lecture on diabetes.

Screenings for prostrate cancer are conducted throughout the month of September, which is Prostate Cancer Prevention Month. To make these convenient for workingmen, they are scheduled at different clinics in the area as well as at the hospital on different days and at different times.

To publicize the various events tailored for health observance months, each is listed in the special events section of Here’s to Your Health, a magazine published by the hospital twice a year and is distributed to about 100,000 readers. In addition, Eldred issues press releases, places ads in newspapers, and distributes flyers. In the past, she has sent letters to those who attended the event the year before.

"With so many health observances available, you need to evaluate your patient population and pick and choose what you want to do," says Eldred.

(Editor’s note: A complete list of national health observances published by the National Health Information Center, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC, can be found on the Internet at


For more information on tagging community outreach events onto health observance months, contact:

Valerie Eldred, RN, Community health Representative, Winter Haven Hospital, 166 Avenue E N.E., Winter Haven, FL 33881. Telephone: (863) 293-1121, ext. 3381.

American Diabetes Month (November), American Diabetes Association, 1701 N. Beauregard St., Alexandria, VA 22314. Telephone: (800) 232-3472. Web site:

American Heart Month (February), American Heart Association, 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231. Telephone: (800) 242-8721. E-mail: inquire@american Web site:

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month (September), National Prostate Cancer Coalition, 1154 15th St., Washington, DC 20005. Telephone: (888) 245-9455 or (202) 463-9455. E-mail: Web site: