CHARLESTON -- The health of people is tied directly to the success of that community's economy.
That's something the Delta Regional Authority members have learned, and why for the third year, the group is offering a series of health fairs across the eight-state region it serves. This Saturday, the fair will make a stop in Charleston.
"A major issue in the areas we cover is the health of the workforce," said Rex Martin, alternate federal co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. "A lot of people wonder what health has to do with the economy, but we determined that had to be a focus if we're ever going to advance the region economically."
For the past two years, the fairs have focused on diabetes -- pinpointing risk factors and helping to diagnose what Martin called "an epidemic nationwide, and especially in our region."
"This year, we're still kind of focused on diabetes, but also look for indicators of other illnesses and addressing risk factors," said Shane Sharp, associate director of public relations for The Communications Group, which is contracted by the DRA to run the health fair events.
The health screenings are done at no cost and take about 10 minutes. Results are provided on the spot, and then people can mingle through booths set up by local healthcare providers to learn more about their health issues and any classes or support groups there may be.
The idea is just to kind of get people engaged in their own health a little bit," said Sharp.
He added that the total screenings would cost about $238 at the doctor's office -- and then patients would have to wait a week or so to get results.
James Moss, human resource manager at Gates Rubber Co. in Charleston, said information about the fair has been made available to employees there.
In line with what DRA is trying to accomplish, the business recently initiated a "stay well" program for employees, to create a better workforce. "It's a benefit to the company and the employees and their families," said Moss.
He said that monetary incentives, such as payment toward the employee's insurance premium, are offered for employees and spouses who participate in and complete the program.
"We've had great participation in our initial sign-up," Moss said.
More than 4,000 fliers about the fair have been distributed in a three-county area, said Sharp. It's hard to guess how many people will attend, but based on past fairs, organizers are estimating about 300 or so people will turn out. Since the fair is on a Saturday, organizers aren't sure if people will give up their weekend to come. So, there will be a drawing to entice attendance, where people can win things such as an iPod shuffle or gift basket, said Sharp.
According to a news release from Healthy Delta, results from previous screenings have given insight into some concerning health trends in the region.
Reports show more than 70 percent of people screened in each city were either obese or morbidly obese. More than half of those screened had high blood pressure and high cholesterol and nearly 40 percent had moderate to high blood sugar levels.
Results from the Charleston screening will be tabulated and released to media, as well as placed on Healthy Delta's Web site, to give a "snapshot" of what the issues are in the area, Sharp said.
Martin said workforce development is one of the DRA's major priorities. In fact, the health fairs represent a $2 million program, which includes a $500,000 corporate contribution from the Wal- Mart foundation.
Although the health fair is geared toward the workforce, anyone over 18 can come and be screened. "We get a lot of elderly people, retirees and unemployed," said Sharp. "But we don't turn anybody away -- it's a completely public event open to anyone who wants to come."
For more information about the Hometown Health Fair screening, call 1-866-
602-3300 or go to www.healthydelta.com.
- What: Hometown Health Fair - When: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
- Where: First Baptist Church, 301 S. Main St. in Charleston
- Cost: Free
The health fair includes free biometric screening of body composition, weight, body fat and body mass index. Those attending will also have their total cholesterol, HDL levels, LDL levels, triglyceride levels and glucose levels checked, in addition to free blood pressure screenings and other health information available. The event is open to anyone over 18. Local healthcare agencies will also be on hand to answer questions and give out information.