Taking free health screenings directly to shoppers

Taking free health screenings directly to shoppers

man receiving blood test
Christiana Care's Community Outreach and Education Program brings free screenings and health information to New Castle Farmers Market.

At the New Castle Farmers Market, shoppers can find bins of bok choy and mounds of tomatillos-and a friendly Christiana Care outreach worker who will take their blood pressure for free.

Since its launch in July 2009, the Community Health Outreach & Education program has offered monthly screenings at the bustling market. The goal is to raise health awareness and make screenings more accessible to people who don’t have insurance or who are otherwise underserved.

“Breaking down barriers to care is part of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center’s mission as a National Cancer Institute selected Community Cancer Center,” says Nora Katurakes, Christiana Care’s manager of the Community Health Outreach & Education program. “By taking this service directly to the people, we are reaching more of our neighbors with information and screenings that can save lives.”

Shoppers can visit Christiana Care’s table at the Market Stage area for on-site cardiovascular disease screenings, including diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. They also can receive a quick cancer-screening needs assessment, assistance with access to financial support, referrals to low-cost or free cancer screenings, and information about where to find help to quit smoking.

It is not unusual for an outreach worker to talk with a woman shopping at the market who is pregnant, needs prenatal care and  doesn’t know how to obtain it. The goal is to make getting essential information about health care as easy as buying a dozen eggs or for busy shoppers-health info on the go!

At the farmers market, no appointment is needed and there is never a fee. Because language can be a barrier to health care, the team includes a Spanish-speaking member. And because the team has taken its service to the people, individuals don’t have to worry about transportation.

Each month, the team adopts a different focus, such as breast health for National Mammography Month or screening for colorectal cancer during National Colorectal Awareness Month.

In the Community Health Outreach & Education program’s first nine months of operation at the market, 184 individuals received blood pressure or cholesterol screenings, according to Rhonda Coleman, chronic disease screening coordinator. And 640 people were given information about cancer-screening or smoking-cessation programs.

Christiana Care’s Community Health Outreach & Education program is always developing new and different ways to reach out to the community, to eliminate disparities and provide greater access to care. In 2009, 951 women received mammograms as a result of outreach programs. The tests detected breast cancer in 12 women, who began immediate treatment.

“When cancer and cardiovascular disease are diagnosed in their early stages, treatment is much more effective,” Katurakes says. “That is why outreach programs are so important.”

In order to better serve its neighbors, Christiana Care has partnered with other organizations in this community effort: The American Cancer Society; Avon Foundation  for Women; Delaware Quitline; Department of Health and Social Services Division of Public Health; Healthy Delawareans Today & Tomorrow; Henrietta Johnson Medical Center; Susan G. Komen for the Cure-Philadelphia Affiliate; and Westside Family Healthcare.