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Free health screenings offered at fair

August 07, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Bobbie Heurer hands out free stuffed pigs and chickens Saturday during the Walnut Street Community Health Center's fair. Heurer represented Head Start of Washington County.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN --Following her mother's death two years ago, Joanne Harig made an unexpected discovery.

On a small sheet of paper found inside a book, the 70-year-old woman had jotted down the aches and pains she had been experiencing in the weeks leading up to her fatal heart attack.

Harig's mother told no one about her symptoms.

"I wish she had," her daughter said. "She could be alive today."

Her mother's death, however, has taught the entire family a valuable lesson, Harig said: you have to be proactive when it comes to your health.

"I made a promise to start taking better care of myself," the Hagerstown woman said.

Harig kept that promise Saturday by having her blood pressure and cholesterol checked. And no appointment was necessary.

The free screenings were part of a health fair hosted by the Walnut Street Community Health Center in downtown Hagerstown.

In addition to screenings -- which ranged from breast exams to depression -- the event included information booths with representatives from area health and community organizations. There also were giveaways, children's activities and refreshments.

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According to Kimberly Murdaugh, the center's executive director, the health fair has been held for the past seven years and coincides annually with National Community Health Center Week.

"Community health centers provide care to about 17 million people throughout the United States," Murdaugh said. "Here in Hagerstown, about 6,000 patients are served annually."

The center offers a variety of medical, dental, mental health and supportive services, she said. Individuals with and without health insurance are accepted.

Murdaugh said the health fair is an opportunity to provide screenings at no cost to the community. It's also a way to introduce the center "to people who are not familiar with who we are and what we do."

Organizers expected about 500 people to attend the health fair.

"It's become a very popular event," Murdaugh said."We had people lining up early this morning."

Murdaugh said she believes the health fair is popular because of the relaxed atmosphere.

"You walk in, meet our staff and have a screening," she said."If you had to make an appointment, many people wouldn't follow through."

Dede Trapp, a breast cancer patient navigator and registered nurse with the John R. Marsh Cancer Center and the Avon Foundation, said the breast cancer information booth at the health fair was busy throughout the morning.

Trapp said breast exams were being done on-site and education was being provided, which could be shared with family and friends.

"We're finding that because of the economy, there is a whole other group of folks who have less insurance or have been laid off and have no insurance," she said."A health fair is a great way to take advantage of a free screening and to become familiar with the services available in this area.What we want to do is develop a relationship with folks in the community. If you need breast cancer services, we're here to offer support."

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