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Health Crusade Saves Lives

Valencia Mohammed | 5/28/2009, 6:52 a.m.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) escorted two D.C. residents to nearby hospitals recently when fatal signs of high blood pressure were detected at a health fair. Health providers at the Health Information Outreach Network€s (HOIN) Pre-Mother€s Day Health Crusade on Sat., May 9, said the event was more than informative €" it was a lifesaver.

The health crusade was the brainchild of former D.C. Councilmember Nadine Winter to bring the services and information where people frequent, live, shop and mingle.

€I€ve gone to health fairs where event planners waited for participants that never showed up. We get more results when we take it directly to the people we want to reach the most,€ Winter said.

Winter, 85, is a four-time survivor of cancer and currently living with lymphoma. In 1998, Winter and 33 cancer patients and survivors gathered monthly in an effort to serve as a support system for one another and also to explore ways in which others could benefit from the group€s collective experiences. In 2001, the group was incorporated and became formally known as HOIN.

To keep its commitment to the community, HOIN has conducted surveys and educational demonstrations at beauty and barber salons, hosted luncheons for cancer survivors and held annual health fairs.

At the May 9 event, survey specialists canvassed the parking lot for likely candidates while health providers handed out literature and administered tests.

€When we found out two years ago that the Safeway at Maryland Avenue [in Northeast] has on average 4,000 customers on Saturdays, we thought it might be a good place to do our health crusades,€ Winter said.

Dr. Walter Faggett, former director of D.C. Medicaid, was on hand to help administer blood pressure tests and check vital signs for possible strokes.

€We had five people whose lives were in grave danger and could have suffered serious consequences from high blood pressure,€ Dr. Faggett said.

€This was great. There should be more of these types of health fairs throughout the District regularly until people, who are at risk, embrace the idea that many diseases are preventable and curable if detected early.€

As an emergency vehicle whisked one participant away, more people from the curious crowd of onlookers drifted to the health fair.

Roger Hooper, president and CEO of East Coast EMS Association, said the group begged one man to go to the hospital because his blood pressure was extremely high. He refused, but promised to follow up that day.

€This is what you call real success. Anytime we can save one person€s life at an event like this, it€s all worth it,€ said Hooper. €Nadine and HOIN should be commended for their valiant efforts.€

During the health fair, two men participated in a prostate cancer screening by Provident Hospital. According to the D.C. Department of Health statistics, excluding lung cancer and bronchus, cancer of the prostate is the most common form of malignancy and second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among males in the District. In addition, the Cancer Consortium of the District of Columbia reports the District has the highest cancer mortality rate in the nation. Mortality rates for prostate, colon and breast cancer are generally higher in the District than anywhere in the country.

Care First sponsored the event. George Washington Hospital and the Washington Hospital Center also participated.